In last August’s Groundhog Day Resolutions Review, I was recovering from burnout brought on (I thought) by too much goal-seeking and travel. I’d also been frustrated by the lack of progress on my important projects, isolation, and the necessity of working by myself to make progress. All these conflicting goals ate me up, so I decided to cut a lot of projects and expectations out of my head, and stopped looking at my big project list. For a while, I was quite depressed and completely lacking in energy.
After mulling it over for a while, I decided to just focus on a couple of things and not worry about anything else:
- Billable project work – need money and need to pace the project work out
- The Living Room Cafe / Home Office – key to feeling good about my environment
It occurred to me that the most pressing issue was not that I wasn’t getting stuff done, but was instead the feeling of creative isolation. While isolation is necessary for doing a lot of work, I was not particularly in the mood to shut myself in a virtual room and work. The feeling of being trapped by work is particularly difficult for me to handle, but the work had to be done if I was to realize any of my goals. Quite a dilemma!
Recognizing I was in quite a fragile mood that was not conducive to being productive, I had not very demanding of myself for several weeks. The one thing I did, though, was commit to doing a 15 minute startup ritual, which I decided to livestream at 7AM every day for a week. The first video led to a second video, and I’ve continued to livestream ALL of the 15-minute rituals since then. Over the weeks, my positivity started to recover as those tiny 15 minute blocks of efforts started to yield results. And now, I have a new theory about my passions which I think resolves many of the issues I’ve listed at the beginning of this article.
I’ll present the new theory about my passion first, then get back to the Groundhog Day Resolutions report.
Reviewing Passion, Yet Again
I used to think that maybe making things was my passion, and then I thought it might be process and improving my skills. Over the years I’ve sought methods of improving my productivity through process development and discipline, but “productivity” has never really felt like the goal.
If I think of passion as “what I seem to do all the time”, my passion seems to be knowing how things work so I can improve my daily experience. This is not quite the same thing as “optimizing for efficiency and reduced stress”, which would be a typical measure. Instead, I’m really more interested in having more interesting experiences or a superlative nature.
The way this passion manifests is at least two-fold:
The most visible aspect is collecting information that helps create “interesting experiences”, follwed by the action to becoming skilled in the application of this information. My fascination with processes, tools, and insights of all kinds fall under this umbrella activity; it’s what I tend to do all day.
Less visible but also important is a compulsion to investigate emotional responses, which is triggered by simple like/dislike reactions to more complex states of mind hinted at by a vague sense of unease. This compulsion is not limited to my own emotions either, as it is triggered by the emotional responses I see in other people as well. I just want to know WHY. It is really a compulsion; I can’t NOT THINK about emotional responses.
As an example of thw two aspects in action, consider my interest in pizza. I know I like pizza, but not all pizzas. I want to know WHY I like pizza. What are the elements of taste and smell that are appealing? What are the constituent ingredients that are contributing to the experience? What makes the pizza from last week worst than the one I am eating right now? What is the best possible pizza? Where can I get it, or do I have to make it myself? Anything that catches my interest is run through a similar checklist of questions. Asking these kinds of questions is my obsession, and my power comes from the lengths to which I go to find the answers. I am most unhappy when I can not pursue my natural line of questioning. Lack of information, bad managers, chores, responsibilities put on me, etc…these are all annoying when they keep me from investigating what’s interesting to me.
I’ve described the pursuit of these two aspects of my passion under an umbrella term I coined as creative independence. To be able to fully pursue my interests, I reasoned, I had to also solve the challenge of making money from the pursuit itself. I knew that there were valuable byproducts that are produced through my natural activities, so thinking of ways to harness them seemed like a good course of action. In this way, my curiosity is the driver of an overall cycle of self-sustaining endeavor. I’ve been pursuing this line of reasoning for several years now, achieving a modicum of success, and thought that it would be enough. However, I now believe that the missing component is other people; it is creative INTERDEPENDENCE that is what I’m seeking. This is a third aspect to my passion that I had never incorporated into my mission statement! I might express it like this:
I feel a particular joy in the gleeful celebration of the bestest/nerdiest/cutest experiences with others. Actively supporting the creation and sharing such experiences as an important personal mission! And, I most want to share my collected experiences and skills with like-minded people who are positive, self-empowered, conscientious, tolerant, and kind…this is my tribe.
It is this celebration with others that is CRITICAL, I am realizing. Without it, my pursuit of “interesting projects” achieving “creative independence” is an EMPTY GOAL. As much as I like having vast amounts of alone time, it is the emotional response shared with others that gives me that sense of joyfulness. I’ve known for a long time that I seem to like seeing “the spark of awareness” when someone realizes they are more powerful than they knew, and thought maybe that teaching or being the catalyst of such sparks was my calling. I don’t think I am that selfless. I want to geek-out with my fellow nerds and have that feeling TOGETHER.
The insights I just detailed above have come about from a remarkable month of experimentation.
As I mentioned before, my “15 minutes in the morning” getting unstuck exercise (last written about as an exercise in maintaining momentum) has really paid off. In addition to making progress on a long-stuck project, there are other benefits too:
- The 15 minutes in the morning have me waking up every day at around the same time. This has helped me anchor my schedule, whereas before it tended to shift wildly from day to day. I am feeling a bit more stable and my sleep is slowly improving.
- Spending 15 minutes FIRST THING on my own project, without looking at email and getting distracted by other people’s needs, is a wonderful feeling. Doing this every day, 7 days a week, soon after I awaken helps maintain the feeling YEAH I AM DOING THE THING I SAID I WANTED TO DO.
The addition of livestreaming the 15-minute sessions every morning on YouTube has also given me a new outlet for reaching out to people. A few people have reached back, commenting that they are putting my videos on in the background as they work. There are other benefits to livestreaming every morning too:
- By streaming every morning, I actually have an external obligation I feel to whoever might want to tune in daily. This is highly motivating.
- Having a fixed time to stream at 7AM gives me a reason to wake up at a regular time. I hate the idea of disappointing people or not living up to my promise. Other people have jobs and bosses. Now, I have my obligation to stream because I want to share, and a reason to try to keep my schedule regular.
The new emphasis on livestreaming got me thinking about the quality of the chat experience on YouTube. While there is a chat room available, I do not get an alert when people say anything, so the interaction tends to be slow. This is compounded by the significant lag in the video, which can be as much as 30-45 seconds behind. That means it can take up to a minute for a question asked to be answered. I decided to try using a different chat room, Discord, that is popular with the video gaming community and has several integration features for livestreaming such as voice chat. I already had the chat room set up for “virtual coworking”. It then occurred to me: why not use the chat room itself to extend the virtual coworking experience from a few livestreamed videos to a 24-hour-a-day gathering place? That was at the end of August; I’m happy to say now that we have a few regulars and the chat room has become a great place for us to just report on what we’re doing and celebrate what we’re getting done.
The upshot of all this? I have established a community that meets my needs, and I have anchored my waking schedule on the regular livestreaming commitment to my 15-minute a day project. This is an enormous improvement over how I was feeling at the beginning of August. And I have my new model of passion to help me direct my energies. It is all somehow merging together!
All that said, let’s talk about GOALS for once. I’m starting to feel stronger, so now is a good time to consider increasing the pressure.
- Contract Work is important; we’ve picked up another 3-year extension to the project, so I will have a lot of work to do on top of the current extension. With the livestreaming videos and coworking chatroom, I am better equipped than ever before to do it. I am not alone anymore in the room.
- The Living Room Cafe is a key element for my local community development. It’s the meeting place where I can start having nerdy project parties.
- My other projects, from music composition to software development to cooking, are starting to awaken. I have the means to share the work via the coworking chatroom and my livestreamed sessions pursuing them. The challeng, I think, is to stay focused on a relatively few number of projects but making steady progress.
- There are a lot of Emergent Task Planner updates that I’d like to address soon, and I should really address what I have for sale online. While I have contract work to keep me busy for the next year or so, getting the stationery business up and running is my retirement plan. I can’t wait much longer on this.
- Revamping the website is the last major hurdle I’m facing this year. Once I can switch to the new information-driven architecture, it will unlock a lot of pent-up research-driven writing that I just don’t want to do on the current site because it’s well suited to it. The new website will function more as a compendium of my interests and research findings, a kind of nerdy reliquary where all my odd interests and discoveries are stored for all to peruse. I am very excited by this.
At some point later this month, I want to revisit my original 2016 Groundhog Day Resolution Goals and see if I can reactivate them. I had suspended the goal pursuit in July when I realized how burned out I was getting, but now that I’m feeling better I am game to try again!
That’s the report for this month! I’ll see you next month. In the meantime, come hang out in the virtual coworking space. I’m there almost all day, and I have been posting my thoughts in the chat room as they occur to me. Say “hi” and let me know you’re here, and let’s enjoy working in the same virtual space together.