A Letter to Myself, Age 23

Tomorrow marks another trip around the sun for me. This time I’ll be twenty-four years old. That’s kind of a cool number: 24 hours in a day, 24 elders before Christ’s throne (Rev. 4:4)—and growing up, Jeff Gordon was my favorite NASCAR driver in his #24 DuPont Chevrolet.

As I thought back on the past year, I realized how much I’ve experienced, how much I’ve learned, and how far I’ve come. I’ll be honest: Age 23 was a tough, trying year. I asked myself questions I never thought I’d ask because I felt things I never thought I’d feel. (Welcome to the real world.)

But I came through the darkness back into the light. I am in a much better state of mind as the meter rolls over once again. And I’d like to think I learned some things along the way.

As a way of recollecting, I decided to write my 23-year-old self a letter. It’s the letter I probably wouldn’t have expected at the time, yet it contains everything I would need to know to get through this rough patch of life.

And instead of journaling it and tucking it away to get musty on a shelf, I am writing it publicly in the hopes that perhaps it will help you, too.

Without further ado, here it is.

Dear Matthew,

Congratulations on everything you’ve accomplished so far. You’ve worked so hard to be where you are today, and now you’re starting to enjoy the fruits of your labor after all these years. Having a job and a stable income, with some spending money to boot, is a birthday present all on its own!

For your birthday, I want to give you something more important than money, and that is wisdom. Not just any wisdom, but some lessons I’ve learned that you’ll do well to keep in mind as you go through this next year.

You see, for better or for worse, you’re about to enter what is going to be the darkest time of your life so far. I don’t mean to scare you, but I’m not going to sugar-coat it, either. I know you’d rather have someone tell it to you straight. I know—I do, too.

But you’re not going to go into this blindly. I’m not going to tell you everything that you’re going to experience, but I am going to tell you what I’ve learned after coming out on the other side. This is by no means the ultimate guide to life, but I think it’s the guide you’re going to need for this season that God’s about to allow you to be in.

The first thing you’re going to feel is a sense of helplessness. Even though you’re well-off financially, you’re going to feel that your life—your career, your future—is out of your control. You’re going to feel like someone else—a man, The Man—is running your life. You’re going to feel trapped in a job you don’t want to be in, doing things you don’t want to be doing. And being the independent-minded individual you are, you’re not going to like that feeling. You’re not going to like it at all.

As a result of this helplessness, you’re going to start feeling that God has abandoned you. You’re going to call out to Him—cry out to Him on many an occasion—and you’re not going to hear an answer. It’s going to make you question your life and your faith up to this point. You’re going to start to wonder whether He led you to a stream of water that’s suddenly dried up—and now He’s nowhere to be found.

To quote a Styx song, you are going to feel like a man in the wilderness.

The good news is, there’s hope—both in this life and in the next. You confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and that guarantees you eternal life with him. Just remember that one day, all this pain is going to be washed away, and he will dry every tear from every eye.

“That’s great to know,” you’re going to say, “but I’m still living in my earthly body! I’m dealing with problems in this life, not the afterlife!”

And you’re right. So let me offer you what I’ve learned from the wilderness so that you can survive it, too.

First, the question is not whether God has abandoned you, but whether you have abandoned Him. I’m not going to speculate—you know where you need some work. Start by getting on your knees and rededicating yourself to Him. Do this daily, every morning right when you get out of bed. He wants to be number one in your life, so put Him first—and don’t even have anything else on the list.

Second, understand that life is full of pain and suffering. You don’t need to look very far to see this. It’s a result of The Fall, of sin entering the world and corrupting God’s very good creation. Until Christ returns and sets things right, this is a fact of life.

Along that line, don’t try to find some deep meaning in life except for God. Nothing else will satisfy. It might fill you up for a bit and make you feel good inside, but before long it will leave you feeling empty and depressed—longing for more, for something else. The wisest man in the world said so himself: “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless!”

But that same wisest man also said that to fear God and keep His commandments is the end of all things. In other words, that’s the meaning of life—of every life, including yours. Fear God and keep His commandments. This is the duty of all mankind.

Outside of that—listen to your emotions. If you feel strongly about something in your heart, pay attention to whatever it is. Especially if you feel it in your solar plexus—what one might call your “heart of hearts”.

But be sure to use some logic and reason before you go off and make a decision based on emotions alone. You could make a serious mistake and derail your life—your job, your career, your future—for years to come.

The exception is a “gut feeling”. If you feel something deep in the pit of your stomach, regardless of what it is, follow that instinct. It’s the strangest thing, but you’ve got to do it.

Now, aside from that, you need to strive for optimization in all four aspects of your life: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects. Being sick or out-of-shape in one will start to affect the others, and your whole well-being will deteriorate.

Exercise consistently. You don’t have to work out every day; two or three times a week will do. But be sure to push yourself so you can become stronger. Don’t stagnate—that’s a great way to become mediocre in any aspect of your life. And the neat thing about working out is that it stimulates the other aspects of your life. It’s also a natural stress-reliever!

Do things that mentally stimulate you. Read books—you enjoy doing that anyway, so carve out time to read. But be sure to read books that you enjoy, or that edify you in some way. If you don’t like book, stop reading it! There’s no law that says you have to finish it!

Oh, and keep your German skills sharp. You never know when they may come in handy. In fact, consider working on another language in your spare time. You’ve wanted to pick up some French—maybe even Koine Greek or Ancient Hebrew—so why not start now? There’s no better time than today.

In terms of emotions, one of the most powerful things you can do is to choose to be a glass-half-full person. Yes, you can choose to be positive. The lenses that you wear determine how you perceive the world. And you live in a vibrant, colorful, bountiful world that God has given mankind dominion over! Celebrate that! Celebrate life every day! Celebrate all the possibilities that you have!

Also, surround yourself with positive people as much as possible. That’s not to say that you should cut negative people out of your life completely—sometimes that’s not feasible, and even if it is, it’d be pretty rude to do so. But you have to look out for your own emotional well-being, and if that means spending less time with people who drag you down, then so be it.

On the flip-side, always be an encourager. Listen to those who, like you, are walking through the wilderness. Remember that each of us is fighting our own battle of survival every day. Have mercy and compassion, and show the love of Christ to everyone you encounter.

And I’ve already addressed the spiritual aspect somewhat. Pray every day, read the Bible every day, and obey the Lord’s commands. Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord your God.

In all things, strive for balance. Strike a balance between work and play. Strike a balance between producing and consuming. Strike a balance between order and chaos. (Have one foot firmly planted on the shore of order while you dip your toes into the sea of chaos!)

Take things one day at a time. Live for the day while keeping an eye on the future. Again, strike a balance—between today and tomorrow.

Remember that you have only one life, and that there’s a unique place for you in the grand scheme of things. So, while I don’t advise you to make rash decisions, if you feel like you’re the square peg trying to fit into the round hole—make a change! Do something different! Take a step, even a small one, towards what you think you were made to do.

I’ll wind this long-winded letter up by saying that you’ve always navigated through life by finding out what you don’t like to do. There’s nothing wrong with that. On the cusp of age twenty-four, I still haven’t found that “one thing” I love to do above all else. You may never. And that’s okay. As long as you can find pleasure in your work, your play, and your people, you’re doing pretty well for yourself. In fact, if you can manage that, you’re already a wealthy man!

Oh, one last thing: Never let go of your dreams. They are what drive you when you’re down. I happen to believe that they’re uniquely yours, given to you by God Himself. Keep that boyish gleam in your eye, that roguish smile on your face, and don’t chastise yourself if you catch yourself looking out the window and thinking about what could be. Do what you can to make those dreams reality. Follow them, even if it will take years to get to the end of the trail. It’s better to wonder “What if I hadn’t?” (which you won’t) than to wonder “What if I had?”

That’s all I’ve got for now. I think this is enough for you to chew on and digest over the coming year. You’re young and you’ve got a big, bright future ahead of you. (Look at all that you’ve accomplished already!) Just don’t let a few black clouds obscure those silver linings.

Stand firm,

Matthew

Don’t Judge People by Their Titles

Back in high school, I was a member of my school’s Christian organization. Every Tuesday at lunch, we met in Gym B to hear a local pastor or church leader give a mini-sermon or devotional. Usually these sessions focused on a topic relevant to high-schoolers, but sometimes we had studies in other areas (such as other religions and apologetics).

I was one of a small handful of guys who volunteered to be “sound guy.” Every other Tuesday, I had the privilege of leaving class ten minutes before lunch to set up the small soundboard, microphones, and dual PA speakers for our little worship band and the speaker du jour. This also meant that I got to meet a lot of the speakers as I was setting up or taking down the equipment.

One Tuesday meeting in my sophomore year drew a larger-than-normal crowd. A prominent religious leader was coming to our humble campus to speak about the Book of Revelation. Everyone was excited. I was excited, not so much because of the gentleman’s prestige, but because I looked forward to hearing what such a studied, esteemed man had to say about one of my favorite books in the Bible to study. And I was running sound that day, so I’d get to meet him—and maybe even discuss Revelation with him a bit!

I remember him being escorted from the front office into the gym by a couple students on the leadership team. He stood around and talked to our group president and some of the other officers as I sound-checked the praise band. Once I finished setting up, I excused myself for a minute so I could introduce myself to our honored guest.

“Hi, my name is Matthew,” I said, extending my hand. “It’s great to meet you!”

He shook my hand and said likewise. I then asked him a question about prophecy being fulfilled in Revelation—something I had heard that linked the popes to the seven kings (cf. Revelation 17), and admittedly I can’t quite remember what the question was.

What I do remember was his answer.

This esteemed leader smirked, scoffed, and used an ad hominem against the man who purported the theory I asked about. “Most of us scholars don’t regard him as reliable because he gets drunk.” And that was that.

I sat through the meeting and listened to his talk on Revelation, elementary as it was, but at that point most of what he said was lost on me. I didn’t feel much respect for him based on the way he’d dismantled my question without even answering it.

I may have asked a dumb question, but he treated it like one. Instead of enlightening my ignorance, he widened the gap between his knowledge and mine. And in doing so, he not only espoused his pride—he lost a potential fan.

Remember, this is a distinguished man in the Baptist denomination. This is a man revered both by Christian academics and by laypeople. And I’m in no way trying to denigrate him wrongly.

But I feel like a got a glimpse into that man’s true soul that day, when I asked him that question. That may be a glimpse that few people have had—I don’t know. But that glimpse told me, despite all his titles and accomplishments, that he was inauthentic.

Imagine my surprise when, last year, evidence emerged stating that this faith leader may have defended sexual abusers in the church. And even this week, more evidence—that he very likely swept sexual abuse claims against a specific pastor under the rug and tried to dumb down the accusations—came to light.

Now, I don’t harbor ill will towards this man for what he said to me that Tuesday in Gym B. Nor do I wish that he be accused of covering up sexual abuse and dragged through the mud as part of the ongoing #MeToo movement. But the sad fact is, judging him by the thirty-second interaction we had, I feel like these accusations fall in line with his character.

This taught me an important life lesson: We should not judge by titles and “reputations,” but by actions and words.

Diplomas and lofty titles look great in an email signature, but what about the soul of the man behind the desk? It’s great that everyone else esteems so-and-so—but does that mean you should, too?

I can give another example, one I can smile and laugh at in retrospect.

I took my first business class in college with a tenured professor—I’ll call her Dr. Brisk. Dr. Brisk not only had her Ph.D, but a long list of managerial jobs at some big-name companies in the Metroplex.

She seemed like a decent lady, fairly approachable after class if I had questions, but something didn’t quite sit right with me about her. I started getting the same feeling of inauthenticity that I got from the faith leader years before.

All went well in Dr. Brisk’s class until the final exam, which she decided would be online since it was the end of the semester, she was busy, we students were busy, et cetera. Admittedly, I did not study as hard for her exam as I did for others, because I had tougher classes to deal with an I already had an A in hers. But study I did, and I sat down at the library computer feeling reasonably confident in my ability to maintain that A.

At the end of the test, I was very surprised to see that I had scored a low B. Being that it was an online test (and perhaps Dr. Brisk did not configure it the way she wanted to), I got to see my answers contrasted against the correct answers. Some I could tell I legitimately missed, but there were others I was sure I answered correctly.

I realized that some of the questions (about 10%) had wrong answers listed as right ones. I knew that because many of the questions came right out of the study guides in the textbook. I took screenshots of the answers in question (no pun intended), attached them to an email, and sent them off to Dr. Brisk.

Imagine my surprise when Dr. Brisk wrote back and asked how I had been able to see the correct answers at the end of the exam. (“Because you set the test up that way, lady!”) I asked if I could have the points for the questions I missed. She said no, because the questions were programmed correctly.

I then sent an email to the head of the department and explained the situation. He wrote me a polite email explaining that the three of us (me, Dr. Brisk, and himself) would have to sit down together to discuss remediation, if any could be done. By this point, she had given out our final grades (my A downgraded to a B), and it would apparently take more effort to reverse that B to an A once the final grade posted.

I could tell from the email chain that neither Dr. Brisk nor her boss wanted to deal with me, a freshman with a cause. And frankly, I didn’t want to deal with them either. I just wanted credit for the erroneous questions so I could have my A.

In the end, I dropped it. Maybe it could have gone somewhere had I stuck to my guns. But no one else in the class complained (did they review their answers?) and this lady had tenure. It felt like it would be me against the network of good ol’ boys (and girls).

To contrast these experiences, I’ve had many great professors with Ph.Ds who genuinely cared about their students and listened to their concerns. I’ve run into the same situation before, where questions aren’t entered correctly in online tests, and the professor promptly fixed them or awarded credit when I brought it up.

I’ve also had the pleasure of knowing some really great pastors and youth leaders, many of whom I met during my time as “sound guy,” and later as group co-president. These men (yes, they are mostly, if not all, men) genuinely cared about the high-schoolers they came to speak to, and it was evident. They answered questions and prayed with students. They came back multiple times to shepherd the flock or water the seeds.

So I don’t have a jaded view of every big-wig with lots of titles, accomplishments, and work experience. I just have the ability to look past that and into their soul to see who they really are.

Jesus taught that we should not judge by appearances, but by right judgment (John 7:24). There are a lot of people these days who, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, strut their sophistication and lord it over other people. They act like nothing can touch them.

Many “plebeians” look up to these people as celebrities (or as celebrities in their respective fields) and place them on pedestals. “He’s my hero!” they might say. “I want to be like him!”

But do you really? Do you want your soul to become like theirs? Do you want to have status and success at the cost of truth and authenticity?

That’s why we all need to start judging rightly. If there’s one thing that the #MeToo movement has shown, it’s that people our society lauds are quickly cast down from grace. If people had rightly judged these wicked men and women years and years ago, we wouldn’t be in this ongoing mess.

And it doesn’t just apply to sexual harassment. Look at things in the business world like Enron and Bernie Madoff. Look at things in the realm of politics like the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s or, more recently, Operation Fast and Furious.

Once you start looking past titles and stop putting people on pedestals, your eyes open. And they open very wide. You start seeing into a person’s true self rather than the façade he wears. You start to see whether she really cares.

And you start to think for yourself by taking a solid step away from the powers of mass media and groupthink.

So, my petition to you, my rallying cry to us all, is this: “Let us judge rightly.” Not by prestige, not by empty words, not by virtue-signaling actions. Let us judge by testing integrity, by examining things said or done in private, and by not idolizing anyone.

And may truth and justice prevail.

The Ultimate Guide to Applying for Jobs Online

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A couple years ago, as I wrapped up my undergraduate degree, I started applying for jobs with local companies. I quickly realized that many of the jobs I was interested in required different résumés, some required cover letters, and nearly all had a unique application process. Soon I found myself with a dozen copies of my résumé, a half-dozen cover letters, and a version control nightmare on my hands.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way for you! Applying for a job can be stressful enough as it is, right? I went through the fire and learned the lessons, so I’ll share the top tips I have for submitting job applications to any company.

First, Get Organized

If you’re applying for a lot of jobs and have a folder with different versions of your résumé and various cover letters, it’s going to be hard to keep track of which is which. That’s why the first thing you need to do is to create a folder hierarchy.

I suggest creating a folder in your Documents folder titled “Job Applications” or something similar. Pick a title that you’ll remember best—one you won’t have to go hunting for.

Within that folder, create a subfolder for each company you’re applying at. For example, you might have a folder titled “Apple” and one titled “Google”. (Shoot for the moon, right?)

Finally, within each company folder, create yet another folder for each job you’re applying for at the company. You could have “UX Developer” and “Test Engineer” within the “Google” folder.

Within each job folder is where you’ll store the résumé, cover letter, and any other documents or information you will submit in the application. This hierarchical structure makes it easy to navigate to the exact documents you need when editing or uploading. You don’t want to upload your Apple cover letter to your Google job application—that would not be too good.

Get Your Documents in Order

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Once you have your folder hierarchy created, you can start working on your documents. If you already have a résumé, CV, or cover letter, copy it into the specific job folder and get to work. If not, start working on a new file and make sure to save it in the folder for the specific job you’re applying for.

When you save a file, your computer automatically updates the date information for the file. This makes it easy to sort by date and see when you last edited the file—which is very handy if you have multiple copies of the same file, or different versions.

To make it even easier to identify, I suggest appending the date information to the end of the filename, like this: “Matthew_Baker_Resume_08-19-19.docx”. When you make updates to the file, update the filename too.

Since I mentioned filenames, I’ll give you my tips on how to name your files. First, name your file what you want the recipient to see when he or she downloads it. This is pretty obvious—but make the filenames look as professional as the documents themselves do. To me, and probably to most hiring managers, a filename capitalized like a title looks more professional than all lowercase (“Matthew Baker Resume” vs. “matthew baker resume”).

Second, keep it simple. Don’t use “Matthew Baker Quality Engineer Associate Resume”. That’s overkill. The hiring manager knows which job you’re applying for, and your résumé should reflect that. Plus, you’ve created a folder hierarchy, so you don’t have to be this specific with the filename because the file itself sits inside the job folder.

Third, I recommend using underscores instead of spaces. Some computer systems don’t play well with filenames that have spaces in them. This is becoming less and less common, but since this is a job you’re applying for, I suggest you play it safe. Use “Matthew_Baker_Resume” instead of “Matthew Baker Resume”.

Whether you’re using Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Google Docs, or another word processor to create your documents, you need to submit final copies in PDF format. I cannot emphasize this enough. A PDF (Portable Document Format) file preserves all your formatting so that what the recipient sees is 99.99% guaranteed to match what you see.

Generating a PDF file is easy. All you need to do is click the File button in your word processor’s menu and look for an option like “Save As…”, “Export”, or “Export to PDF”. Double-check that the file will be in the .pdf format. If you mess up, that’s fine. Just go through the steps again and make sure you’ve selected the right format. If you need help, do a Google search for “How to export a PDF file in [your word processor]”.

If you submit a Word document or other a file in another word processor file format, there’s no guarantee that the recipient will see what you do. I’ve opened Word documents that probably looked great on the creator’s screen but looked hideous on mine: messed-up formatting, missing fonts, and more. Sometimes, the recipient may not even be able to open the file format you send!

Hopefully I’ve driven this point home. Even if the company’s job submittal tool accepts files in formats like .doc and .docx, send a PDF (.pdf). It comes across as more professional (to me, sending a Word document is like sending a draft), and you can rest assured that what the hiring manager sees is what you saw when you created it.

Submitting All the Stuff

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All right, you’ve got your folders in order, and your files ready to go! Now all that’s left is to submit all the documents and turn in that application!

Before starting the online application, make sure you have all the information you need in order to complete it in one sitting. Many companies offer the ability for you to save an application in process, but in my experience this doesn’t always work. If it’s an incredibly long and thorough application, you may have no choice but to save your work and come back later.

Otherwise, if you have all the information on-hand, you can knock the application out in one sitting and save yourself the hassle of stopping to get more information, throw together another document, and come back later to wrap up. I realize not every company lists what they expect you to submit up-front, and that’s why this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. It just makes life easier if you can do it this way.

If the company has any browser requirements or recommendations for submitting online, follow them! If you use the wrong browser, it might crash mid-application and then you might have to start all over! Just download the right browser and do it the right way—at least then you’ll have reason to complain to the company’s IT department if something goes haywire.

If the company doesn’t list browser recommendations, go with Mozilla Firefox. In my experience, it’s the best all-around browser, and the large majority of sites work well with it.

You may also have to enable pop-ups in your browser when completing the application. If the company doesn’t provide instructions on how to do this, do a Google search for “How to enable pop-ups in [your browser]”. If possible, consult the browser’s official website.

Once you’ve got all your information together and you’ve got the right browser loaded up, go ahead and breeze through the application! Double-check all information you input into forms before you advance to the next page. Make sure you upload your résumé or CV in the correct place. (Don’t upload your résumé as your cover letter, or vice versa!)

If possible, at the end of the application, do a final check that all information you entered and uploaded is correct. Then fire that application off, sit back, and wait for that interview!

Bonus: General Job-Application Tips

Overdelivering (some might say overachieving) is something I pride myself on. If you’re reading this post because you need to apply for a job online, great. But why not stick around a bit longer for some general tips for job applications and interviews?

I’ve picked up a lot of tips along the way, sifted through them, and separated the wheat from the chaff. Here are some of the best ones.

For your résumé or CV:

  • Use bullet points to highlight your talents, responsibilities, etc.
  • For less-experienced applicants, stick to one page
  • For applicants with 10+ years of experience and/or lots of past jobs, two pages is fine
  • Use numbers when possible (e.g., “Supported 50 clients…”)

For your cover letter:

  • Almost always stick to one page
  • Less is more—talk about important stuff, but save some things for your interview
  • Keep sentences short; this makes them easier to understand
  • Keep paragraphs short; this makes them easier to read
  • Address the letter to the hiring manager, if you know his or her name
  • Include the job title and requisition number at the top of the page

For all documents:

  • Use consistent design/formatting across documents (e.g. header, font choice, font size)
  • Use two fonts maximum
  • If using two fonts, opt for a sans-serif font for headers and a serif font for the main text body (e.g., pair Arial with Times New Roman)
  • Use strong, action verbs (e.g., managed, performed, developed)
  • Avoid weaker verbs (e.g., helped, assisted, aided)—be assertive and take credit for your accomplishments!
  • Avoid passive voice (e.g., don’t use “Changes were made…”; use “I made changes…”)
  • Use parallelism in writing (e.g., “I woke up, got out of bed, and dragged a comb across my head.” All the verbs are in the simple past tense. Bonus points if you catch the reference.)

For interviews (these tips came from a presentation I gave to high-school students interviewing for internships):

  • When asked a question, don’t be afraid to ask for a minute to think before answering
    • A good interviewer will realize that behavioral and experiential questions require thoughtSilence can be awkward, but only if you let it beA more thoughtful answer is a better answer!
  • Smile!
    • Whether in person or over the phone, smiling will reflect in your toneSmiling communicates interest and eagerness to the interviewer
  • Speak at a “Goldilocks” speed
    • Not too fast, not too slow, but just rightEnunciate your wordsThis prevents the interviewer from asking you to repeat yourselfIt also showcases your speaking skills!
  • Eliminate filler words
    • Um, uh, well, like, you know, I mean, okay, so, actually, basically
    • This makes you sound smarter and appear more thoughtful!
  • Maintain eye contact with your interviewer
    • Don’t look away the whole time
    • Don’t stare!
    • This establishes rapport
  • In a face-to-face interview, mirror your interviewer’s posture
    • This establishes rapport
  • When the interviewer asks if you have any questions, ask questions!
    • Be prepared with two or three questions ready to ask
    • Ask questions that you think of during the interview
    • Asking questions shows interest in the company and the position

Conclusion

That’s a lot of info, right? Hopefully you find it useful, because applying for a job doesn’t have to be stressful or time-consuming. In fact, if you get your ducks in a row, you can easily knock out a handful of applications in an hour!

As always, thanks for reading. If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to drop me a note below. And if you have any additional tips you think your fellow readers would benefit from, please feel free to share in the comments!


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What if I told you that you could quickly and easily learn how your computer or smartphone works?

What if I told you that troubleshooting your technology can be easy and painless?

Well, now I’m telling you! My book How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t explains, in everyday English, how your computer operates and what you can do when it’s not operating the way you want it to.

It teaches you about the basic components without getting too technical, so you can become more computer-literate.

It walks you through simple steps to fixing common computer problems, so you can get back to using your computer instead of struggling with it.

It explains how to easily solve issues such as sluggish performance and virus infections, so you can keep your computer running smoothly—instead of running out to buy a new one.

And… it includes over 30 full-color pictures, so you can actually see what I’m talking about.

I’ve spent a great majority of my life solving computer problems (and I’m only in my twenties!), and I studied IT in college partly for this reason. I’ve helped kids, seniors, and everyone in between… and now I want to help you.

This book contains all the “secrets” I use to solve computer problems… secrets that everyone can use, including you.

Imagine feeling confident that you can solve your own tech problems without calling your tech-savvy friend, child, or grandchild. Imagine quickly feeling at home with software or apps you’ve never used before.

With How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t, you will!

How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t is available on Amazon in all regions for Kindle and in paperback. Why not pick up a copy today and start becoming comfortable with computers?

P.S. If you opt for the paperback version, you can also get the Kindle version for only $0.99 more and read wherever you go on your smartphone, tablet, or Kindle e-reader. Also, be sure to sign up for my email list to receive free bonus content to supplement the book.

My Education: American Public, Private, and Homeschooling Compared

I consider myself fortunate to be one of the few people in America, and perhaps in the world, to have attended the three major kinds of schools: public school, private school, and homeschool.

It all started around at age four, when my parents enrolled me in preschool at our church. I remember looking at all the books on the classroom bookshelf. They fascinated me. Some of them had words, which I couldn’t read!

Mom picked me up from preschool one day, and I remember making this statement to her: “Mom, I want to learn how to read.”

So, Mom started teaching me how to read when I was four years old. Evidently I made great progress, even though I don’t remember all the details. Instead of enrolling me in kindergarten, she started teaching me first-grade material at home. That meant I started “real school” one year before my friends did. And so my educational journey began.

In this article, I’m chronicling my educational experiences in American schools. This is subjective, and by no means comprehensive. I know others have had far different experiences from my own. Yet I try to be objective in my analysis of the pros and cons for each.

I didn’t include any pictures today, because a) I didn’t have any relevant ones on-hand to use, and b) I couldn’t find any good, fair-use ones instead. Also, I think they would distract from the gist of the article, which is to, well, educate. It’s not that pictures aren’t important, but they’re just not always relevant. I’m not going to add photos just for the sake of adding photos.

Now, let me educate you a bit about American education.

Homeschooling

I really enjoyed being homeschooled. Even as a young boy, it taught me how to think for myself and depend on only myself for getting work done.

A typical homeschooling day involved Mom going over the previous day’s assignments with me, then teaching me a bit, and then giving me new assignments for the current day. I would then hit the books, solve math problems, write essays, or do whatever I needed to do that day.

Often, I would learn what I needed to learn and get my schoolwork done by noon. I had all afternoon free to do other things: read other books, build LEGOs, or play video games (moderated by Mom, of course). And yet I learned at the same rate as my peers who spent all day in public elementary school. Many times, I learned faster.

In other words, homeschooling allowed Mom to tailor the curriculum and teaching/learning styles to best fit me.

Homeschooling allowed me to learn about things and do projects that my peers in public school didn’t. For example, equipped with a World Book Encyclopedia CD-ROM (this was before Wikipedia was in vogue), I would research ancient Greece and Rome. I would take care of a bonsai tree as part of a report on Japanese culture. And I would start learning Spanish thanks to Rosetta Stone (also on CD-ROM). As part of religious education, I read the Bible cover-to-cover and studied the tenets of other belief systems. I did all these things and more before I was twelve years old.

Another beauty of homeschooling was the flexibility. When my grandfather passed away in May 2008, my mom, brother, and I spent most of the summer living with my grandmother. We had to help her get acclimated to living alone. Homeschooling got put on hold for a bit, but I could continue learning over the summer. (There’s not much else to do in Wichita Falls, TX, when it’s over 100º F outside.) I read Around the World in Eighty Days for the first time, and my first book on how computers worked. (And now I’ve written my own book on computers to help the average Joe and Jane!)

One downside of homeschooling can be the lack of socialization. Some groups of homeschoolers come together every week so their kids can play and learn together, so that helps. Still, homeschooled children get much less socialization than their public-school peers do.

Depending on how you look at it, this could be either good or bad. In my case, because I wasn’t around other kids as much, I learned to think for myself, and I became pretty resistant to peer pressure. Yet that also meant that I was, and probably still am, a social anomaly because I was raised and educated outside of the “normal” social sphere. But hey, I’ll take being unique and authentic over conforming to social norms any day.

Another downside to homeschooling is that parents who homeschool may not have the technical expertise required to teach high-school subjects. For example, my mom could teach me pre-algebra and basic science just fine, but there was no way she would be able to teach me pre-calculus or physics.

Some homeschool groups mitigate this by having a parent, who is an expert in a specific area, teach multiple kids in a class. An example might be a homeschool father, who is an engineer by trade, teaching a calculus class for homeschool kids.

I took homeschool math classes at my local community college. (As an eighth-grader, I felt really sophisticated when I told my friends I took geometry in college!) That helped me tremendously because I had hit a wall trying to learn algebra on my own, and Mom couldn’t help me over the hurdles. It also got me around some more homeschoolers and into a classroom setting, better preparing me to transition into…

Public School

Mom homeschooled me and my brother until we finished our eighth- and sixth-grade years, respectively. At that point, our parents decided that we needed more socialization with our peers and teachers more equipped to teach us advanced concepts.

So, we wrapped up schooling at home, each got a diploma for graduating into this next phase of life, and prepared ourselves for the transition.

I remember meeting with the high-school counselor as I prepared to integrate into public high school. He helped me enroll in the classes I needed to take; he also signed me up for a math competency test so I could take advanced geometry instead of algebra (since I’d already taken algebra in my homeschool years).

I also, at Mom’s urging, tried out for the jazz band. I played guitar, had played for a little over a year, and didn’t think I was anywhere near good enough to play in a jazz band. Yet I got the sheet music and started learning etudes so I could try out.

On the last day of school, the summer before my freshman year, Mom drove me up to the school to try out. I walked into the empty band hall with my guitar case in one hand and my cheap Marshall amplifier in the other. I plugged in, got out my music, and played it for the jazz band director.

To my surprise, I passed the audition! Turns out, they didn’t have a guitar player at all, so I made the first (highest) band. And I played in jazz band all four years of high school.

So, I began high school by taking advanced classes, playing in the jazz band, and navigating a school of over 3,000 people. (Everything’s bigger in Texas!) Thankfully, I had a few friends at the school, and I made new friends, so I socialized quickly and found my place.

Public high school gave me opportunities that I would not have had anywhere else. For instance, my friends and I built a website for the 2013 National History Day competition and got to compete nationally in Washington, D.C.! I was also co-president of the school’s Christian organization for a year and a member of the National Honor Society service group.

I also got to explore other interests, such as computer science and German. I found that I was a decent programmer, while learning German awakened an interest in the language—and all languages—that I would never have had if I stuck with Rosetta Stone Spanish at home! I doubt I would ever have learned to program on my own, and I likely never would have thought to learn German on my own, either. (I had the choice of Spanish, French, German, or Latin. I opted for German because I am 1/8th German—my great-great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Wittenberg.)

I took mostly advanced classes (called Advanced Placement, or AP) in high school, which helped prepare me for the rigors of college. They also allowed me greater freedom of study than the “regular” classes would have. In that respect, public school wasn’t too different from home school—just a different environment.

Of course, there were several things I didn’t like about public school. For one, when I did have to take a “regular” class, I was usually bored. The teachers had to teach well below my learning capacity. This was because the material had to be easy enough for the other students to learn and pass the class.

This is part of the fallacious idea in many American public schools that kids just need to pass tests and move up to the next grade and out of the school system. The blame often rests on the teacher’s shoulders if the student isn’t being successful in her class. It’s a shame that it is that way, but it’s true.

Another thing I didn’t like about the public school system was standardized testing. Every spring, we had to take a test mandated by the state of Texas so someone in the Texas Education Agency could plot us out as data points on a chart.

The tests were easy, sure, but annoying. And, unfortunately, teachers had to teach their students not what was important to learn, but what their students needed to know in order to pass the test and make them, the teachers, look good. I didn’t have to deal with this so much in AP classes, but I did experience it a bit. That’s just another way the public school system is messed up.

And finally, I hated the lack of respect that students showed teachers, and the disdain for learning in general. Most kids came to school, did the bare minimum, and left. They had so much more potential, but they were in an environment where all they had to do was get a C to pass and then move on.

Not all kids were like this, and not all were disrespectful, but many were. Again, this wasn’t the case in AP classes very often, but it definitely was in the “regular” classes. And that was one reason I tried to stay in all the AP classes, because I didn’t want to be drug down with that crowd.

That’s not to mention the fights, threats, graffiti, bullying, drug use, and more that went on every day. Thankfully, I stayed away from most of that, but it was in the environment. No wonder people have noticed correlations between how high schools and prisons are constructed.

(My parents and other Baby Boomers will tell you that it was not always that way. If you misbehaved in class or bombed a math test, you either had to deal with the wrath of the principal, the wrath of your father, or both. Rarely was it the teacher’s fault—it was your fault. And, when disciplining misbehavior, both typically had paddles.)

If I sat and thought long enough, I could come up with a dozen more things I liked and disliked about public school, and American public education in general. But these are the main things that come to mind, and they’re enough for the purposes of this article.

And that leads into the typical alternative to public school, which is…

Private School

I’ll admit, I don’t have nearly as much experience in private school as I do in public school or in being homeschooled. However, I’ll discuss what I experienced during my limited time there, things I liked, and things I disliked (mostly disliked). Some details come from friends who spent their entire youths in private schools.

Mom enrolled me in some private school classes from second grade through fourth grade, and again in eighth grade. She intended these classes to supplement my homeschool education. I took extracurricular subjects like music, physical education (PE), art, and writing. I also took science and history classes there for a couple years.

What did I like about private school? Well, classes were small, because the school had fewer students than a public school does. That allowed teachers more time to work with students one-on-one—never a bad thing, in my opinion.

I enjoyed my art and music classes. I got exposed early to some of the great artists and composers throughout history, and developed an appreciation for art in general. (How many second-graders learn that Tchaikovsky wrote The Nutcracker or that Van Gogh painted The Starry Night?) I also improved my art skills, though sadly I’ve let them go to the wayside since then!

What did I not like about private school? Mainly the strictness and uniformity. Uniforms, haircut regulations, and so on. Being that it was a Christian prep school, it was very legalistic. Some kids may not mind that, but I did. I liked to wear my hair longer and thicker, and got reprimanded for it a couple times—but I didn’t care. Then again, I don’t care much for legalism, period.

The legalism didn’t prevent bad behavior, either. The boys, who were supposed to be “model young men,” were just as bad as—or worse than—boys in public school. Because it was a smaller school, I was more privy to their antics than I was in high school, where I could choose to associate with a more even-keeled group of guys. One memorable instance involved someone writing nasty words on the bathroom wall, day after day, with their filth… and that’s all I’ll say about that.

Lastly, because the private school was so small, it offered limited extracurricular opportunities or advanced classes. It had no band or orchestra. I could not have studied German in private school, and I don’t think I could have studied computer science, either. Demand was not high enough, and no teachers on staff could teach these subjects.

In Retrospect

Looking back on my life, I’m blessed and thankful that I received the education I did. I’m grateful to live in the United States, specifically in the great state of Texas, where parents still have the freedom to decide how their children receive education.

None of these three types of schooling are inherently better than the others. They’re just different. Where one is lacking, another compensates. There is no perfect, or even best, option.

I would not change anything about my education journey. I’m thankful I started out in homeschooling because I learned to be self-reliant, to prioritize, and to work dutifully. I was responsible for my own success, Not the state, not the school, not my friends—just me. Put simply, I learned how to be autodidactic. I learned how to teach myself.

I’m also grateful I got to attend public high school. It afforded me many great opportunities I would not have had if I kept being homeschooled. And, it helped me better prepare for college by taking college-level classes in a high-school environment. I also learned how to help others learn, and effective ways to teach material by tutoring friends.

Private school was all right, and I can see its benefits since it can provide a more focused, higher-caliber, classical-oriented education. I wouldn’t want to go back, though. I can (and have, and did) provide myself a classical education on my own.

How will I educate my future kids? I’m not sure yet. Who knows what the future landscape of education will look like?

What I do know is, I will ensure my kids understand that it’s their responsibility to learn, not the teacher’s responsibility to make them learn. If they attend public school, I will be very involved in school events, as well as ensure that they learn outside the classroom. If they are homeschooled, I will ensure they are learning the things they need to know to prepare them for life in the “real world,” and also spend enough time with other kids so they become well-rounded and sociable.

I almost certainly will not send them to a private school, however. Those are overrated!

Feel free to leave any questions or comments below. I’d like to hear your thoughts, and different perspectives are always good. Thanks for reading!


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What if I told you that you could quickly and easily learn how your computer or smartphone works?

What if I told you that troubleshooting your technology can be easy and painless?

Well, now I’m telling you! My book How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t explains, in everyday English, how your computer operates and what you can do when it’s not operating the way you want it to.

It teaches you about the basic components without getting too technical, so you can become more computer-literate.

It walks you through simple steps to fixing common computer problems, so you can get back to using your computer instead of struggling with it.

It explains how to easily solve issues such as sluggish performance and virus infections, so you can keep your computer running smoothly—instead of running out to buy a new one.

And… it includes over 30 full-color pictures, so you can actually see what I’m talking about.

I’ve spent a great majority of my life solving computer problems (and I’m only in my twenties!), and I studied IT in college partly for this reason. I’ve helped kids, seniors, and everyone in between… and now I want to help you.

This book contains all the “secrets” I use to solve computer problems… secrets that everyone can use, including you.

Imagine feeling confident that you can solve your own tech problems without calling your tech-savvy friend, child, or grandchild. Imagine quickly feeling at home with software or apps you’ve never used before.

With How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t, you will!

How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t is available on Amazon in all regions for Kindle and in paperback. Why not pick up a copy today and start becoming comfortable with computers?

P.S. If you opt for the paperback version, you can also get the Kindle version for only $0.99 more and read wherever you go on your smartphone, tablet, or Kindle e-reader. Also, be sure to sign up for my email list to receive free bonus content to supplement the book.

In the Wake of Three Shootings

Photo by Ivandrei Pretorius on Pexels.com

My heart sank on Saturday when I saw reports of another mass murder—this time in El Paso. My heart sinks every time I hear of a shooting, but this one hit close to home. After all, Texas is my home.

Then I woke up Sunday morning to learn of another mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. Once again, my heart sank.

And this comes hot on the heels of another mass murder in Gilroy, California last weekend.

It’s enough to make one stop and ask a question: What’s going on here?

I’ll tell you what makes me sad and then mad about these shootings. First and foremost, people die. In most cases, they’re defenseless and shot senselessly. Many times, children die. Lives are cut short.

Second, the mainstream media immediately politicizes (polarizes) the narrative and jumps to conclusions. Forget just mourning with the victims and letting people internalize what happened, much less waiting for reports from the front lines. Everything has to fit the preconceived narrative, whether that’s liberal, conservative, or something else. The philosophy is, “If it doesn’t fit the narrative, don’t report it.” Or worse.

Third, the talking heads who immediately start calling for gun bans, gun control, and gun whatever.

You might be wondering, “Why do calls for gun control make you mad, Matthew? Isn’t that a sensible thing to do?”

No, it’s not, because it’s ignoring so many other factors.

I once saw an analysis of four countries’ gun laws and gun violence statistics: Japan, Mexico, Switzerland, and the United States. Here is the essence of that analysis:

  • Japan: Low gun availability, very low gun violence.
  • Mexico: Low gun availability, very high gun violence.
  • The U.S.: High gun availability, very high gun violence.
  • Switzerland: High gun availability, very low gun violence.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

People like to point to gun ownership as the cause of these mass murders. They then demand “gun control” to prevent future mass murders. But that’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Switzerland, until recently, had very free gun laws. Every citizen is required to serve in the military, issued a firearm, and then allowed to keep that firearm upon honorable discharge. Consequently, most Swiss households owned guns.

Yet you don’t hear about mass shootings in Switzerland. Ever.

Contrast that to Mexico, the complete opposite. Mexico has strict gun control laws that should prevent even the cartels from owning them, and yet people get shot and killed every day, even in touristy places like Cancún.

Within the United States, one need only look at Chicago, a city with strict gun control laws, to see how well gun control is working out. Chicago banned handguns from 1982 to 2010—at which time the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ban unconstitutional. During that period, 59% of all murders in the city were committed with handguns. From 2003 to 2010, that figure jumped to 71%.

Gun control worked pretty well for the Windy City, then, huh?

Here’s another piece of data: There are approximately 393 million guns owned by civilians in the United States alone. That’s 1.2 guns for every American citizen.

If guns were the problem, we’d sure as heck know it by now. We’d be seeing shootings on an even more massive scale.

These facts are not intended to diminish gun violence in any way. Gun violence is tragic. Any loss of life is tragic. There’s no argument there.

But realize that guns are just a means to an end. Timothy McVeigh bombed Oklahoma City using fertilizer. Terrorists on 9/11 used airplanes. The Boston Marathon bombers used a pressure cooker.

My point is this: Guns are not the problem. Guns never were the problem.

So, what is?

Mental health or instability? Radicalization? Social isolation?

Race-baiting politicians? Brainwashing? Mind control?

The “Deep State” or the “New World Order”?

Far-fetched, you say? Maybe not entirely. But you have to ask yourself these things and do some digging. Rarely does the “official story” match up with all the facts.

Frankly, I don’t know the answer to why. I wish I did. And until I do, or at least think I do, I’m going to keep looking.

But even if I did, the sad fact is that most people will not think beyond what appears to be the immediate solution: ban guns.

Banning alcohol worked so well in the 1920s that they had to pass the 21st Amendment to overturn the 18th.

What makes anyone think that guns would be any different?

And, I hate to say this, but mass murders make me more in favor of the 2nd Amendment than I was before. I want to have a gun on my person if a bad guy starts shooting at me.

And in the current state of our nation, being shot at has become less and less far-fetched of an idea.

I hope this short article has prompted you to think. Ask yourself these questions. Does it really make sense, what these political talking heads are demanding?

Or are they just pushing a narrative?

Pray for the victims of these attacks and their families, pray for our nation, and pray for our world. May God bless our leaders with wisdom and discernment as they grapple with these tough issues. May our nation get to the root causes of these issues so that innocent people can safely go about their lives without fear of being shot.

And may Truth prevail.


Sources and further reading

Guns in Other Countries — Gun Facts: http://www.gunfacts.info/gun-control-myths/guns-in-other-countries/

Estimating Global Civilian-Held Firearms Numbers — Small Arms Survey: http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/fileadmin/docs/T-Briefing-Papers/SAS-BP-Civilian-Firearms-Numbers.pdf

Gun Control — Just Facts: https://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp

Is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Still Worth Reading?

My personal copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People, sitting on my desk.
My personal copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People, sitting on my desk.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I like to read. And anyone who knows me really well knows that I like to read on self-improvement.

Even though I read a lot, I rarely write reviews. Sometimes that’s because I need time to internalize a book’s message. Other times it’s because a book underwhelmed me, and I don’t like to leave a critical review.

Then occasionally, a book comes along that impresses me so much that I can’t help but write about it. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of those, as is War and Peace.

How to Win Friends and Influence People is also one of those books.

I had known about this book for a while. My mom likes to use the phrase “win friends and influence people” (even though she’s never read the book herself), so you could say I grew up hearing about it a lot. I don’t know anyone else who has read this book, though.

After reading many self-improvement and “soft skills” books over the past five years, I decided to read this classic. I found that many other self-improvement books, while meaning well, fell flat to some extent. They lacked something. I hoped that, because this book has stood the test of time (80 years in print and millions of copies sold), it would contain whatever it is that those other books don’t have.

For context, I am an extraverted introvert. I enjoy being around people in small groups and in small doses, but have to retreat to solitude at the end of the day to recharge. I’m not socially incompetent, but I’ve always felt I had subpar social skills, even among those within my “inner circle”.

I was blessed to get a college job that forced me to improve my social skills and deal with people more, mostly over the phone and via email. My boss kindly coached me in ways to improve my communication, and over time I developed a sense of “how to say things best”. I practiced these “tactics” over and over, and I began to see that people almost always responded positively and predictively to them. Pretty soon, these skills became second nature, and now I’ll forever use them without thinking twice about it.

I say all that because I waded into How to Win Friends and Influence People with at least some sense of how to win friends and influence people. Still, I figured there was plenty more that I didn’t know.

Boy, was I right.

Carnegie is a rags-to-riches kind of guy from a little farm in northwest Missouri. Read his story in the book.

First of all, if you are organized and methodical like myself, this book is for you. Carnegie simplifies and codifies the basics of human behavior. You can flip to the last page in each part and read the rules for winning friends, leadership, etc. Review these often!

Second, for each rule, Carnegie provides a plethora of stories from real people. This isn’t some theoretical psychological ivory-tower talk. People have tested and proven this stuff, time and time again. Read their stories to learn how they did it and how you can do it, too. (Note: The latest editions contain some updated anecdotes that are more relevant for today’s readers.)

Third, the sections are short. You could read one rule a day and put it into practice. Or you could read a whole section. I did both as I devoured this book.

As I read, I found myself making mental notes: “Hmm, that’s interesting. I need to try that out.” Or, “I think I already do a pretty good job of this.” Or sometimes, “Oh! So that’s why people act that way!”

So, if you’ve read this far in my review, I bet you’re wondering whether it has helped me.

Well, I read this book in about two weeks, giving myself plenty of time to digest each section. I needed to think about how to best put the rules into practice in my everyday life, whether at work, home, or elsewhere. I just finished the book a few days ago, so I haven’t had a chance to put everything into practice yet.

That said… I’m already seeing positive results.

I sat down with my old boss a couple weeks ago with a business proposition for him. I didn’t even do much of the talking. I let him talk about his business, life, and so on. I asked a few questions here and there because I wanted to see things from his point of view, and nodded with interest as I listened to his answers.

By the end of our meeting, and with little pushback on his part, he accepted my proposition. And all I had to do was listen with interest and let him do the talking.

Given, we’ve known each other for a while and have a high degree of trust in each other, so I’ll give another example.

At a friend’s wedding, I reconnected with some friends I hadn’t seen since high school. I’m not a Type-A personality, but I took control of each conversation and started by asking them how they were doing, what they were doing, and so on. I don’t like to talk much anyway, so all I had to do was stand, smile, and listen. Some of them went on and on and on… because they felt like I cared about what they were saying. And I did.

The end result? Reconnected with old friends, who lamented the fact that I had to leave early. (We would’ve partied all night!) I gave one guy a compliment and it hit him like a fly ball out to left field! He and I had never been super close, so it was the last thing he expected to come out of my mouth. The surprise on his face was priceless.

But what was even better was the fact that, by employing these rules, I drummed up conversations with people I’d never met before. I had some fantastic conversations with some fantastic people: an attractive young lady who (like me) stood alone at the reception, several of my friends’ parents, other guests…. Breaking the ice and establishing rapport was a piece of wedding cake.

I’ve even noticed a change in myself. Smiling more has improved my outlook on life. I feel more in control of things that happen at work. I can better gauge others’ expectations and meet them. I’m not afraid to sit down with my manager and discuss a problem.

I feel more in control of life in general. I feel more confident. And confidence is contagious in the best way possible, folks.

To answer the question this article poses, yes—How to Win Friends and Influence People is absolutely still worth reading.

Why? Because even though times change, people remain the same. Human behavior is the same across the ages—just pick up any history book and see for yourself. People twenty, two-hundred, and two-thousand years ago responded to social cues the same way they respond today.

If you want to improve your social success, read this book. Read it, and be diligent in putting its principles into practice. That’s the only way you’ll ever be able to improve. Knowledge isn’t power, but applied knowledge is.

There is a key, though: You must be genuine in your interactions with other people. Smile from the heart. Nod in affirmation. Try to see the world through their eyes. If you do… even if you do it imperfectly… you will win friends and influence people.

I have. So let’s see you do it, too.

Buy your copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People today.


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What if I told you that you could quickly and easily learn how your computer or smartphone works?

What if I told you that troubleshooting your technology can be easy and painless?

Well, now I’m telling you! My book How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t explains, in everyday English, how your computer operates and what you can do when it’s not operating the way you want it to.

It teaches you about the basic components without getting too technical, so you can become more computer-literate.

It walks you through simple steps to fixing common computer problems, so you can get back to using your computer instead of struggling with it.

It explains how to easily solve issues such as sluggish performance and virus infections, so you can keep your computer running smoothly—instead of running out to buy a new one.

And… it includes over 30 full-color pictures, so you can actually see what I’m talking about.

I’ve spent a great majority of my life solving computer problems (and I’m only in my twenties!), and I studied IT in college partly for this reason. I’ve helped kids, seniors, and everyone in between… and now I want to help you.

This book contains all the “secrets” I use to solve computer problems… secrets that everyone can use, including you.

Imagine feeling confident that you can solve your own tech problems without calling your tech-savvy friend, child, or grandchild. Imagine quickly feeling at home with software or apps you’ve never used before.

With How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t, you will!

How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t is available on Amazon in all regions for Kindle and in paperback. Why not pick up a copy today and start becoming comfortable with computers?

P.S. If you opt for the paperback version, you can also get the Kindle version for only $0.99 more and read wherever you go on your smartphone, tablet, or Kindle e-reader. Also, be sure to sign up for my email list to receive free bonus content to supplement the book.

They Won the Wage Battle… But They Lost the Work War

The red fist of socialism.

The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.

Margaret Thatcher

Today, FoxNews reported that Bernie Sanders finally gave in to his campaign staffers’ clamoring for a $15 minimum wage. A victory for the common man, right?

Actually, quite the opposite.

Because of the hiked minimum wage, Sanders’s campaign cut its staffers hours. That means they’re not making any more than they did before. That means they’re not going to be nearly as effective in their work to get Sanders nominated.

And I think this could mean doom for Sanders’s campaign, and for the socialist movement in general.

Talk about feeling the burn. (Or is it Bern?)

To be fair to the staffers, they didn’t say anything about maintaining a 40-hour workweek. I guess they assumed that would be the case.

It’s basic supply and demand. There is no demand to justify staffers being paid $15 an hour. Therefore, when an outside entity violates the natural balance by placing a price floor on minimum wage, the supply is forced to decrease.

After all, Sanders’s campaign would go belly-up if it was forced to keep all its staffers, well, on staff at $15 an hour for 40 hours each week. They’d have to solicit more donations, probably from rich people (the same ones they hate and want to tax to death), in order to stay alive.

In this case, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. Socialism just got schooled.

We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions.

Adolf Hitler

I’m shooting from the hip here. I don’t get political on this site very often. Yet I don’t see this as politics.

I see socialism and the “gimme” mentality as a great evil that imperils not only the U.S., but the world. I see it as a broader global, social issue that could (and likely will) inevitably lead to totalitarian regimes that mimic Venezuela at best and Stalin’s Soviet Union at worst.

Here are some cold, hard facts to be learned from Sanders and his staffers:

  1. Some jobs just aren’t worth $15/hour.
  2. If the minimum wage is increased, employers will be forced to reduce the workforce or working hours in order to keep profits in the black.
  3. Get ready for computers and robots to replace minimum-wage workers—because they work minimum-wage jobs for free. And they don’t complain or form unions, either.

And here’s three more tough truths for good measure:

  1. Life is hard, and you aren’t owed anything. In fact, life is downright cruel. And you shouldn’t trust anyone, especially not the government, to take care of you. You’re fortunate to wake up and live in one of the best times in history in the greatest country on the earth. You have a relatively comfortable life because of people who worked hard thousands of years before you to bring humanity to its current state. You have opportunities people halfway around the world could only dream of.
  2. Instead of clamoring for a higher minimum wage, get out there and learn some skills that will make you more money. The more value you provide to others, the more money you will receive as a result. Anyone can flip burgers or solicit. Not everyone can sell homes, repair faulty wiring, or manage investments. Very few can win Oscars, perform to 10,000 people, or start world-changing companies. The more value you provide to others, the more money you will receive as a result.
  3. Socialism does not work. It runs counter to human nature that God created in all of us. It discourages innovation and hard work by punishing the high achievers. It encourages complacency because those at the bottom aren’t compensated according to the value they provide. There is no incentive for them to work harder if big government is always taking care of them. (If you want evidence of socialism not working, I need only point to Venezuela.)

Socialism states that you owe me something simply because I exist. Capitalism, by contrast, results in a sort of reality-forced altruism: I may not want to help you, I may dislike you, but if I don’t give you a product or service you want, I will starve. Voluntary exchange is more moral than forced redistribution.

Ben Shapiro

You may say that selfishness is wrong, but at the end of the day, we’re all selfish. Even the most selfless things we do, we do because we want something out of them—whether because we want the feeling of well-being that comes from doing them, because we want to avoid the guilt we’ll feel if we don’t do them, or because we want to look good in our peers’ eyes. Socialism violates this natural human behavior of operating selfishly.

Once people understand very basic economics and human behavior… socialism will become a footnote of history.

And now, I’ll step down from my soapbox. For now.

But first, I’ll leave you with a haunting quote.

The goal of socialism is communism.

Vladimir Lenin

The Three Best Personality Tests (So Far)

An unexamined life is not worth living.

Socrates

I wouldn’t go so far to say that it’s not worth living, period. But it’s a bad mistake to go through life without some self-examination.

Without self-examination, you may find yourself in the wrong career. You may find yourself in a relationship with the wrong person.

And if you’re a young person, like myself, this is the prime time to start self-examining. You can course-correct with minimal change!

Socrates’ quote links to the Delphic maxim, “Know thyself.” You could ask a dozen philosophers what “Know thyself” means, and you’d probably get a dozen (or more) different answers. I think the kernel of the maxim is this: You need to examine yourself so you can understand what—and how—you think, so you can find your optimal place in society.

Why is this important? As an example, if you don’t examine yourself, you might find yourself in an unfulfilling career. You might think you’re supposed to be an engineer, but you actually like working with people more than you like working with things. But you may not understand that, and so you’ll go to work every day feeling unfulfilled at best—or hating your job at worst.

Knowing yourself also helps you know other people better. You understand where you fall on various scales, like introversion-extraversion. You learn the oft-forgotten fact that not everyone thinks the same way you do. Even your friends think differently from you. That’s what makes us unique, and that’s what keeps society functioning—because if we were all wired to be doctors, who would write music?

But perhaps the most important reason to take a personality test is this: You start to understand how the world perceives you, and find areas where you can improve your life.

If you think you’re a psychological anomaly, you’re probably not alone. A personality tests shows that you fit into a category with other like-minded individuals. This is comforting.

You start to feel better about yourself, accepting yourself for who you are while working to improve in weaker areas. You start to make life changes that will lead to greater self-satisfaction. In turn, those life changes will help you better sympathize and empathize with others.

At the end of high school and through college, I was blessed to have taken personality tests several times. These tests helped open my eyes to understand how I work, how other people perceive me, and how I could best “plug in” to the crazy world we live in.

It’s been five years since I first took a personality test, and I took three recently to see if my traits would change. I explain each test below, and give my opinion.

So, take these tests, know thyself, and then get to work! Then come back, a few years from now, and try again—and see if your results change at all.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

A lot of people have heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Two ladies, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, designed the test during World War II. They based it on the four personality traits identified by Carl Jung.

It’s got its fair share of critics and some consider it pseudoscience, but don’t let that stop you. It’s great for an initial yet thorough self-assessment. I’ve taken it at least a half-dozen times over the years and scored pretty consistently each time.

The Myers-Briggs test gives you a four-letter abbreviation that represents your type. Each letter represents one end of a scale. The best way to understand this is to use an example.

My Myers-Briggs personality type is INTJ:

  • I: Introversion over Extraversion
  • N: iNtuition over Sensing
  • T: Thinking over Feeling
  • J: Judgment over Perception

You can find several Myers-Briggs tests online. My favorite so far is 16Personalities, which does a good job of not type-casting you, but instead showing where you fall on a scale.

For example, I may score as an Introvert, but 16Personalities notes that I’m in fact 72% introverted. That means I’m 28% extraverted. (At a party, I’m not the socially-awkward guy in the corner—just the guy who prefers smaller groups and more meaningful conversation!)

16Personalities also adds a fifth metric: Identity. Identity ranks how confident you are in your abilities and decisions, on a scale from Assertive to Turbulent.

So, with 16Personalities, your final personality type looks something like this: INTJ-A.

16Personalities gives you more than a rather vague four- or five-letter personality type. It gives you an identity to go along with that type. For example, being an INTJ, I’m considered an Architect.

Image courtesy of 16Personlities.com.

At the end of your test, 16Personalities provides a thorough breakdown of your traits. You can read how your type works best, fares in relationships, and so forth.

You can even pay to access additional resources. 16Personalities provides a type-specific e-book. They also provide an Academy, which consists of further assessments and improvement exercises.

Last week, I retook the 16Personalities test to see if I’d score would change. Turns out, this time I scored as INFJ-T, the Advocate.

Image courtesy of 16Personalities.com.

What’s the difference? The Architect thinks more than he feels, and the Advocate feels more than he thinks.


In looking at my results, I find that I’m only 60% Feeling. I recall from my first test that I was only about 60% Thinking, too. So perhaps I oscillate between Thinking and Feeling—or maybe I know a time to think and a time to feel!


All that to say, this is a great first personality test to take. Scientific or not, it should give you a better idea of who you are and what someone with your personality is best suited for in life, love, and work.

The Enneagram

The word enneagram comes from two Greek words meaning “nine” and “symbol”. Hence, the Enneagram is a personality test with nine types.

I find the Enneagram the most confusing of the personality tests I’m sharing with you. To me, it takes some extra effort to wrap your head around the results. But that doesn’t mean that it’s any less valuable.

Image courtesy of EclecticEnergies.com.

The essence of the Enneagram is that you fall into one distinct personality type with a “wing”. That is, your dominant type also possesses traits of an adjacent type on the circle.

When I took the Enneagram, I scored 5w4. That means my personality type is a 5 (The Investigator) with some traits of a 4 (The Individualist). That makes me a “thoughtful identity seeker” who is observant, unique, and different. I’d say that’s accurate.

I can definitely see how my Enneagram results complement my Myers-Briggs results. Both emphasize introversion, intuition, and thoughtfulness.

Another interesting note is that I retook the Enneagram last week and this time scored 1w2. Type 1 is The Reformer, and Type 2 is The Helper. I suppose that makes me a “perfectionist helper” who is responsible, selfless, and socially aware.

I’m not quite sold on these results, and I don’t see much of a correlation with my newer INFJ personality type. I see the perfectionist in myself, and I’m happy to help others, but not to the point that either overrides my tendency to deeply analyze things.

If you’d like to take the Enneagram, the site I used is Eclectic Energies. And no, I don’t do any of the chakra stuff, nor do I intend to. I’m just there for the test.

Understand Myself by Dr. Jordan Peterson

Hey! We’ve been talking about knowing thyself, and here’s a test called “Understand Myself”. What a find, right?

If you’ve never heard of Dr. Peterson, I’ll give a quick introduction. He’s a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, and he’s probably best-known for his YouTube channel where he posts clips of lectures, talks, and more. He’s also written a fascinating, highly-informative, and best-selling book called 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. The book rolls psychology, philosophy, and more into twelve rules you can follow to live maximally, as he would say.

You owe it to yourself to check him out.

I’m a fan of Dr. Peterson because his take on things is a breath of fresh air in the post-truth, politically-correct culture we live in. Dr. Peterson tells it like it is—and if you’re looking for some intellectual entertainment, check out all the videos of him “destroying” feminists, postmodernists, social justice warriors, and more.

And if you’re a feminist, postmodernist, or social justice warrior, well—to put it politely, maybe it’s time you examined yourself and your beliefs.

Anyway, I learned that Dr. Peterson developed a personality test of his own called Understand Myself, and knew I had to take it. Unlike the previous two sites, Understand Myself costs $9.95 one time—and you can only take it once.

Image courtesy of Understand Myself.

This test is the most scientific of the three. It evaluates you based on the five personality traits generally accepted in psychology: Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience.

At the end of the test, you’re given a fifteen-page breakdown of every metric, tailored to you. You get to see where you fall on the spectra compared to the hundreds of thousands of other examinees. Pretty impressive.

Some of my results didn’t surprise me very much. For example, I scored in the 93rd percentile for Orderliness—that’s why, when my brother and I take trips, I’m the one who does the planning! (And why, for the most part, things go as planned!)

Other results did surprise me. I scored in the 40th percentile on Extraversion, which classifies me as “Typical”. Guess I’m not as introverted as I thought! But the description fits me like a glove:

People with average levels of extraversion are not overly enthusiastic, talkative, assertive in social situations, or gregarious. They enjoy social contact, but are also happy spending time alone. They will plan parties occasionally, and make people laugh, but are often willing to let others take the lead in organizing social situations and entertaining. They have a balanced view of the past and the future, neither over-emphasizing nor dismissing the positive.

Needless to say, I’ll be reading and reviewing the results of this test for a while. It’s by far the most comprehensive I’ve ever taken.

Conclusion

So, should you take all three tests? That’s up to you. I recommend you at least take the Myers-Briggs test to get an idea of where you stand personality-wise. If you want a second assessment, take the Enneagram.

That said, if you don’t mind spending $9.95 and you can be completely honest with your answers, take Understanding Myself. Remember, you can only take it once—and Dr. Peterson advises taking it when you’re not hungry, tired, or under any kind of stress. If you can do these things, you may find that $9.95 to be the best $9.95 you’ve spent in quite a while.

If you take any or all these tests and want to share your results, please drop them in the comments below. And if you know of other personality tests worth checking out, let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time—make it a great week, and don’t stop improving!

How to Reset a PC Without Wiping Windows

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Or should we call it Windows-washing? (Ba-dum, tish!)

I’ll be here all night, folks.

Anyway, a very good friend of mine approached me about cleaning the data off his old PC. He wanted to give it to his sister, but didn’t want a complete Windows reset because he wanted her to have the Microsoft Office products already installed.

This is something I’ve done a few times for people, so I figure it would make a good tutorial. It appears there’s a lot of folks (more than I thought) who want to clean up an old(er) PC without completely wiping and reinstalling Windows.

Note to Mac users: This article doesn’t cover anything Mac-related, but many of the principles are still the same. I’ll probably write something similar for you in the near future.

Anyway, in cleaning data off an old PC that you want to give (or sell) to someone, there are seven basic steps that I follow, and that I will explain in this article.

  1. Remove any cloud backup software.
  2. Deauthorize accounts from software/the computer.
  3. Uninstall all unnecessary programs.
  4. Delete all unwanted files.
  5. Clear browsing history, favorites, etc.
  6. Clean up leftover files and the registry.
  7. Change the login information.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

1. Remove any cloud backup software.

The reason you want to do this step first is simple: If you start deleting files before you’ve deleted the software that backs them up, there’s a very high chance you’ll delete those files from the cloud. That means they’ll be deleted from all your other synced devices. Not good!

Uninstall programs from this section of the Control Panel.
Uninstall programs from this section of the Control Panel.

To uninstall cloud backup software such as Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive, do the following:

  1. Click on the Start button.
  2. Start typing “control panel” in the search bar and select Control Panel from the Start menu when it appears.
  3. Click on “Uninstall a program” under the Programs header of Control Panel.
  4. Find the cloud backup software in the list of programs, left-click to select it, and then click the “Uninstall” button on the bar along the top of the program list.
  5. Follow any instructions that the software uninstaller gives you.

Easy enough, right?

2. Deauthorize accounts from software/the computer.

If you have any programs that are licensed (i.e., you pay to use) or require you to have an account to work properly, you’ll want to sign yourself out. If necessary, deauthorize the computer from your account settings.

What does this mean? Well, put simply, if you’re using iTunes and you don’t want your PC’s new owner to be able to buy songs and movies, you’ll need to deauthorize iTunes on your PC and then log out of your account.

The same is true for software such as Spotify, Kindle, and Microsoft Office. The steps vary for each program, and if you’re having trouble, a quick Google search should help.

In general, you’ll want to click through the menu options on the top bar of the program (such as File, Account, etc.) and look for options to deauthorize or log off. You might also find these settings under “Preferences” or “Settings” in certain programs.

To deauthorize a device on Amazon, for example, you have to log into your account, go to "Your Content and Devices" (under the "Your Account & Lists" menu at the top-right of every page), and then select the device you want to deauthorize from the Actions column.
To deauthorize a device on Amazon, for example, you have to log into your account, go to “Your Content and Devices” (under the “Your Account & Lists” menu at the top-right of every page), and then select the device you want to deauthorize from the Actions column.

In some cases, you may have to log in to the software website in order to deauthorize the computer. This is true for Kindle, which requires you to deauthorize the computer from Amazon’s “Your Content and Devices” dashboard.

Once this part’s done, we get to start cleaning house!

3. Uninstall all unnecessary programs.

Let’s revisit our buddy Control Panel from Step 1. At this point in the process, we’ve already uninstalled the cloud backup software. Now, we need to uninstall everything else that your PC’s new owner doesn’t want or need.

Use the same steps as before: Select the program from the list, left-click to select it, and then click on the “Uninstall” button. Follow any directions in the program uninstaller, and you should be good to go.

Here’s a big rule of thumb: Don’t uninstall anything that you’re uncertain of! When in doubt, leave it out!

However, with some discernment, you can safely clean up all the unneeded or unwanted programs without affecting anything mission-critical. Here are some more guidelines to follow:

  1. Don’t delete anything that lists “Microsoft” or “Microsoft Windows” as the Publisher.
  2. Don’t delete anything that lists the PC manufacturer (e.g., Dell, HP, ASUS) as the Publisher.
  3. Don’t delete anything that’s driver-related. These are a bit harder to define, but in general, anything related to mouse, sound, or graphics should be left alone.

I know I wrote “When in doubt, leave it out!” just a few paragraphs ago. That said, the best thing to do would be to do a Google search for the program name and find out whether it’s something you should keep or not. You should learn enough about it from the first few Google results.

Keep your work gloves on, because once you’ve trashed the programs, it’s time to recycle.

4. Delete all unwanted files.

This part is probably the easiest. Select files and delete!

Wait! Before you get started, make absolutely sure there’s nothing that you need to back up first! And then, make sure there’s nothing you want your PC’s new owner to have!

My book How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t explains more about how to back files up, so I won’t cover it in-depth here. You will want to store the files on some external medium, such as a USB flash drive or an external hard drive, and then transfer those files over to another computer.

I suggest you start by cleaning up the Desktop. Delete all files there by right-clicking them and selecting the option to “Delete”. Then, when prompted, you will want to click “Yes” to send those files to the Recycle Bin.

Once the Desktop is clear, move any files you want the PC’s new owner to have onto the Desktop. This will keep them out of the way when you start indiscriminately deleting all the other files in sight.

To delete a lot of files at once, go into a folder (like Documents), press Ctrl+A on your keyboard to select all the files, right-click on one of the selected files (all the other ones should remain selected), and then “Delete”. Do this for every main folder on the computer (e.g., Documents, Pictures, Music, Video). Leave no stone unturned or folder unchecked!

When deleting a lot of data, you may be told that it won’t fit in the Recycle Bin. That’s okay; delete it anyway! Assuming you don’t need to back it up (or you already have), just send those files directly to the shredder.

Do your part to help the environment (well, not really) by emptying the Recycle Bin.
Do your part to help the environment (well, not really) by emptying the Recycle Bin.

Once you’re done deleting, you’ll want to empty any files still left in the Recycle Bin. On the Desktop, right-click on the Recycle Bin and select the option to “Empty Recycle Bin”. At this point, the files are essentially gone, gone, gone.

Except, maybe not! If your computer has a traditional platter hard disk, Windows has merely deleted the references to the files on the hard drive. What this means is that someone could recover the files on the disk if they wanted to. It’s probably not a big deal if all you had were vacation pictures, but if you had important financial documents, well, that’s another story.

How do you know if your computer has a platter hard disk or a solid-state drive (SSD)? Simple.

Open the Start menu, then start typing “optimize” until the option titled “Defragment and optimize your drives” appears on the menu. Select it.

The Optimize Drives utility that appears on-screen will list any and all storage disks on your PC. If the primary disk (usually C:) is listed as “Hard disk drive”, then you have a traditional hard disk. If it’s listed as “Solid state drive”, then you have a speedy new SSD, in which case your files are already gone.

If you have a hard disk drive and need to scrub the drive clean, hang on for just a minute. We’ll cover how to do that in Step 6. But first, Step 5.

5. Clear browsing history, favorites/bookmarks, etc.

Just like you don’t want your PC’s new owner to see all your personal files, you probably don’t want them to see all your Internet activity, either. Cleaning your browsers up isn’t difficult, but can be a little tricky.

If you’re logged in to your browser(s), the first thing you’ll want to do is sign out for good. This varies from browser to browser, and providing a how-to for every browser is beyond the scope of this article, so Google is your friend if you need specific instructions.

Next, go into the browser’s settings and delete all history, cookies, and cache items from all time. Again, this process is different on each browser, so ask Google if you need assistance.

Once that’s done, you’ll probably want to clean up your favorites or bookmarks. You’ll probably need to do this part manually by opening up the list of bookmarks, right-clicking each one, and then selecting “Delete” (or similar).

On Firefox, you can delete bookmarks en masse by clicking on the Bookmarks menu item, then “Show All Bookmarks”, and finally selecting all the bookmarks with Ctrl+A and right-clicking to delete. This saves a ton of time.

Once that’s done, your browser should be squeaky clean—but we’re going to do one final thing to make sure you didn’t miss any spots.

6. Clean up leftover files and the registry.

To this point in the walkthrough, I haven’t had you use any third-party software to clean up the PC. Now, though, we’re going to have to in order to make sure we’ve covered all our bases.

Download and install the free version of CCleaner. (Instructions are on the website.) If you’re prompted to install Avast! Antivirus when installing CCleaner, I advise against it if you already have an antivirus on your PC—and if you don’t, it probably wouldn’t hurt to install it.

The CCleaner "Custom Clean" screen. Check all the boxes on the left in both the Windows tab and the Applications tab. Don't select "Wipe Free Space" unless you know for sure you have a hard-disk drive.
The CCleaner “Custom Clean” screen. Check all the boxes on the left in both the Windows tab and the Applications tab. Don’t select “Wipe Free Space” unless you know for sure you have a hard-disk drive.

With CCleaner open, you’ll want to select the option to do a Custom Clean. Go ahead and check all the boxes in the left pane, and then click over to the Applications tab to check all the boxes in that list as well.

If you determined that your PC has a hard-disk drive in Step 4, you’ll want to make sure you check the box to Wipe Free Space. This will greatly increase the time it takes for CCleaner to run, but it will ensure that your files are wiped from the drive.

Go ahead and click the “Analyze” button. CCleaner will scan the drive and report back with the files it intends to delete. Once it does, click “Run Cleaner” and sit back while CCleaner gets rid of the gunk.

Make sure to save a backup of the registry just in case. I've used CCleaner to clean up the registry for years and never had to restore it from a backup. But you just never know...
Make sure to save a backup of the registry just in case. I’ve used CCleaner to clean up the registry for years and never had to restore it from a backup. But you just never know…

Once the cleaning is complete, you’ll want to run the registry cleaner. Click on the “Registry” button on the left side of the window, ensure all the boxes are ticked, and then click “Scan for Issues”. After it scans, click “Fix selected Issues…”, click “Yes” back up the registry, save the backup to your Documents folder, and then “Fix All Selected Issues”.

Et voilà! Now we’re almost done. You can keep CCleaner installed for the next owner, if you’d like. (It’s a good tool to have on-hand and run often, as I explain in my book.) If you’d rather get rid of it so the new owner has a completely clean slate, refer back to Step 3 to uninstall it from the Control Panel.

7. Change the login information.

Finally, you probably want to change the username and password for the computer. We saved the easiest part for last, so keep your chin up! We’re almost done! You can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Go back to the Control Panel and click on the option to “Add or remove user accounts” under the User Accounts and Family Safety header. Make sure that you’re the administrator (main user), else you may not be able to do this step.

Like I said, this part is very easy. Change the account name and then create a password. You can even change the picture if you'd like.
Like I said, this part is very easy. Change the account name and then create a password. You can even change the picture if you’d like.

This part really is easy. On the account in question (which is probably yours, if it’s the main account), click on “Change the account name” to enter the new account name. Once that’s done, click on “Create a password” to enter a new password.

Wow, that was easy, wasn’t it?

If there are any other accounts, you’ll probably want to go ahead and delete them. I suggest you log into those accounts first, though, and make sure that there are no files within that need to be backed up or deleted.

Otherwise, you’re done!

In conclusion

You’ve now restored your computer to a near-new state without having to completely wipe the drive and reinstall Windows. Give yourself a pat on the back!

There are a few final things you may want to do to the PC, depending on who’s going to be the proud new owner:

  1. Forget your wifi settings (settings vary from Windows 7 to Windows 10)
  2. Change the desktop background (especially if it’s personal, like a family portrait)
  3. Change the screensaver, if there is one (same as above)

When you hand off the computer to its new owner, the last thing I’ll advise you to do is make sure that you also hand off all necessary peripherals: power adapters, mice, keyboards, and the like. The last thing you want to do is give someone a computer and then they can’t charge it because you forgot the power adapter!

If you found these steps helpful, let me know. Feel free to bookmark this walkthrough for future reference. And please share this with anyone you know who needs them!

And, if you have any questions, or you think I left something out, go ahead and drop me a line in the comments below!

Until next time… make it an awesome week.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1548894625.jpg

What if I told you that you could quickly and easily learn how your computer or smartphone works?

What if I told you that troubleshooting your technology can be easy and painless?

Well, now I’m telling you! My book How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t explains, in everyday English, how your computer operates and what you can do when it’s not operating the way you want it to.

It teaches you about the basic components without getting too technical, so you can become more computer-literate.

It walks you through simple steps to fixing common computer problems, so you can get back to using your computer instead of struggling with it.

It explains how to easily solve issues such as sluggish performance and virus infections, so you can keep your computer running smoothly—instead of running out to buy a new one.

And… it includes over 30 full-color pictures, so you can actually see what I’m talking about.

I’ve spent a great majority of my life solving computer problems (and I’m only in my twenties!), and I studied IT in college partly for this reason. I’ve helped kids, seniors, and everyone in between… and now I want to help you.

This book contains all the “secrets” I use to solve computer problems… secrets that everyone can use, including you.

Imagine feeling confident that you can solve your own tech problems without calling your tech-savvy friend, child, or grandchild. Imagine quickly feeling at home with software or apps you’ve never used before.

With How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t, you will!

How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t is available on Amazon in all regions for Kindle and in paperback. Why not pick up a copy today and start becoming comfortable with computers?

P.S. If you opt for the paperback version, you can also get the Kindle version for only $0.99 more and read wherever you go on your smartphone, tablet, or Kindle e-reader. Also, be sure to sign up for my email list to receive free bonus content to supplement the book.

25,000 Words

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote anything on my blog. Other stuff just kept taking priority—but that was priority of my choosing, so I really have no excuse.

Anyway, rather than write any big, long piece to make up for what I haven’t posted in almost a month, I’m going to share some of the output from one of my hobbies: photography.

My grandparents gave me my first Vivitar camera when I must have been three or four, and I’ve been snapping pictures ever since. (I still have the Vivitar!) I upgraded to a digital Panasonic when I turned thirteen and more recently upgraded to a Canon DSLR last year to really take it to the next level.

Now, whether my eye for photography has ever been any good is for you to decide. And whether the shots come out looking great is also up in the air.

My goal as I work on photography on the side is to learn not only the mechanics of camera settings and framing the shot but also the post-processing that is done with image-editing software such as Photoshop. I’m a cheapskate (and Adobe charges out the nose for a Photoshop subscription now), so I’ve been using the open-source image-editor called GIMP. I think the results are pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

So, without further ado, here are some shots of airliners taken at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Grapevine, TX and muscle cars taken at Lone Star Muscle Cars in Wichita Falls, TX. Enjoy and please let me know what you think.

Omni Air International 767 taxiing in the foreground; American A321 taking off in the background.
Omni Air International 767 taxiing in the foreground; American A321 taking off in the background.
American MD-83 in the foreground, American 777 in the background. Both planes are landing into the south.
American MD-83 in the foreground, American 777 in the background. Both planes are landing into the south.
American 737 landing in front of Omni Air International 767.
American 737 landing in front of Omni Air International 767.
American A321 coming in for a landing.
American A321 coming in for a landing.
Omni Air International 767 taking off into the south. A Qantas A380 is parked on the tarmac in the background.
Omni Air International 767 taking off into the south. A Qantas A380 is parked on the tarmac in the background.
Omni Air International 767 retracting its landing gear as it switches to the departure frequency.
Omni Air International 767 retracting its landing gear as it switches to the departure frequency.
Volaris A320 "María Amalia" approaching the runway.
Volaris A320 “María Amalia” approaching the runway.
Alaska 737 painted in a Toy Story 4 livery.
Alaska 737 painted in a Toy Story 4 livery.
American A321 landing in the foreground. The Alaska 737 is lined up for takeoff on the neighboring runway. Lined up in the background are an American (Embraer) ERJ-175, American 737, another American ERJ-175, and an American 787 Dreamliner.
American A321 landing in the foreground. The Alaska 737 is lined up for takeoff on the neighboring runway. Lined up in the background are an American (Embraer) ERJ-175, American 737, another American ERJ-175, and an American 787 Dreamliner.
Air China Cargo 777, JFK-bound, taxiing in the foreground. A Canadian CargoJet 767 waits to cross the runway in the background.
Air China Cargo 777, JFK-bound, taxiing in the foreground. A Canadian CargoJet 767 waits to cross the runway in the background.
The Air China Cargo 767 waiting for clearance to cross the runway.
The Air China Cargo 767 waiting for clearance to cross the runway.
American A321 at the moment of touchdown.
American A321 at the moment of touchdown.
Hmm, which one do I want?
Hmm, which one do I want?
1970 Ford Mustang Mach I. Easily my favorite Mustang ever.
1970 Ford Mustang Mach I. Easily my favorite Mustang ever.
1985 Mustang GT Predator 302. Probably my second-favorite Mustang.
1985 Mustang GT Predator 302. Probably my second-favorite Mustang.
1969 Dodge Super Bee.
1969 Dodge Super Bee.
1962 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster.
1962 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster.
1969 Chevrolet Camero.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro.
2001 Dodge Viper. Get stung with V10 power, baby!
2001 Dodge Viper. Get stung with V10 power, baby!
1966 Dodge Charger.
1966 Dodge Charger.
1967 Chevrolet Camaro RS "Moovin' Milk". I wouldn't mind if the milkman drove this. Wait, I guess milkmen don't exist anymore.
1967 Chevrolet Camaro RS “Moovin’ Milk”. I wouldn’t mind if the milkman drove this. Wait, I guess milkmen don’t exist anymore.
1965 Ford Mustang grille.
1965 Ford Mustang grille.
2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. I really like the firebird graphic on the hood.
2002 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. I really like the firebird graphic on the hood.
A spider! Guess the Dodge D150 he was hanging out on hasn't been driven in a while.
A spider! Guess the Dodge D150 he was hanging out on hasn’t been driven in a while.
Another shot of the 1969 Dodge Super Bee, but the grille this time.
Another shot of the 1969 Dodge Super Bee, but the grille this time.

One thing I really like about photography is that it gives me an excuse to get out, explore, and experiment. As you can probably tell, I like photographing machines, but really anything that (I think) exhibits beauty is worth capturing.

Coming soon: enhanced photos from my spring-break trip to Utah. Until then, thanks for reading and viewing.