2017 Groundhog Day Resolutions: Kickoff!

"Groundhog by Pearson Scott Foreman" This is my 11th year (!!!) of doing Groundhog Day Resolutions (GHDR). I took a quick look back at my earliest goals, and found they haven’t actually changed that much. In 2007 I had chosen to focus on three main activities:

  • Deriving Income from Writing and Making Stuff
  • Building Sustainable Social Networks
  • Selling a Real Product

By 2016, these activities had morphed into the following:

  • Have a “Neat Side Business”
  • Make Progress on my long-term 2024 Goals
  • Share What I Love

In both sets of goals, making tangible goods to make money while pursuing my own interests is a fundamental goal; I later named this “the pursuit of creative independence”. This year, I’m adding something new I’m calling mindblowing productive synergy in an attempt to de-boringify the hard work.

REVIEW OF 2016

One of the main hurdles I face in my daily struggle to be productive is the lack of energy, which manifests as boredom in my projects and the inability to start them. By early 2016 I had become aware that creative independence alone was not enough; I needed human connection to provide me with a source of motivational energy. I was forced to admit that I was unable to muster the energy to keep doing what I was doing by myself. At the end of 2016, I modified my definition of “creative independence” to “creative INTERdependence”; this more accurately expressed the role that I believed people could fill in my life. This is what I was trying to express when I added “Sharing What I Love” to my Groundhog Day Resolutions; I figured that if I shared what I liked, this would make it possible for other people to recognize me as one of their peers.

I have been somewhat successful in “sharing what I love” in 2016, though it took an unexpected form. Rather than writing a lot of blog posts, I found myself putting energy into creating virtual coworking and livestreaming on YouTube. In hindsight, it makes sense why this was more appealing that writing because it’s a source of realtime performance and feedback; my disinterest and boredom in my goals stems from the lack of immediate results. I don’t particularly “enjoy the process” for its own sake, but for the possibilities that a project brings to life. At times I can enjoy the meta process of “understanding process”, but this enjoyment is because (1) I’m good at it and (2) it helps move the project along faster. I want tangible, useful results as soon as I can get them, so I can get on with it. By the end of 2016, my impatience reached the point where I became discouraged in continuing my work. I was going through the motions only because the alternative was not to do anything at all. And by January, doing nothing at all started to seem like a good idea…did anything matter, really? I had reached a very low point. Even though I believed that creative interdependence and challenging myself to create were FUNDAMENTAL and VALUABLE elements of a good life, I just couldn’t give a crap anymore.

Hanging out in the Virtual Coworking Chatroom has helped me with one of the Groundhog Day Resolution goals: connecting with peers. The people who hang out here all have the desire to be productive in the face of their own difficulties, and it’s been nice to share our experiences. We’ve created various text channels to handle different aspects of it, and together I think we’ve created a welcoming place. A general takeaway for me is I am not as alone as I thought in this ongoing struggle, which I knew in the abstract but had not experienced directly through daily interaction with others like me.

With this realization has come increased energy. The continued livestreaming, particularly the What’s up Dave experimental segments where I just talk to the camera like I’m hanging out with old friends. There’s something about this experience that is really important, and I think I’m starting to figure out just what it is.

REVISITING GOALS FOR 2017

With the background out of the way, let me reframe my general goals more succinctly. I want to:

  • generate money from what I make as I pursue my own interests (creative independence)
  • form connections with like-minded peers, making and sharing what we do collectively (creative interdependence)

The strategic intent behind these general goals are to make a foundation for happiness. I think this The desired effect from achieving these general goals is what I might call my best guess of foundational happiness: money, creative freedom, interacting with people who like what I like.

There’s just one problem. IT’S HARD. I kind of hate doing the hard work, but the weird thing is that it’s not hard in the “rocket science” sense, but hard for other reasons. For whatever reason, I have an ingrained negative reaction to doing any project that (1) has more than a few unknowns and (2) has a deferred result of (3) unknown value. Starting is my hardest problem, and over the years I’ve evolved tricks to get me going. I am comforted also by believing that I become a better person by pursuing challenging work, that failure is the best teacher, and dogged perseverance is a character virtue.

But…it’s still hard. And I am starting to think that I might be playing myself for a sucker. Let’s look at this again:

  • I don’t enjoy a lot of my projects, even the ones that I’ve picked for myself as interesting and useful endeavors.
  • The rewards are deferred and obtainable only by taming uncertainties that I don’t necessarily enjoy facing, and THAT IS WHY it is so energy draining.
  • Any sense of satisfaction I feel is long after-the-fact of doing, once I’ve have the luxury of forgetting what a pain in the ass it was. And this fleeting sense of satisfaction is dwarfed by the experience of the struggle itself.

This seems terribly inefficient. Right now I have three main ways of pushing through the hard stuff:

  1. I have to store up energy for a long period of time and do a burst of effort for up to two weeks, at which point I am completely drained for 2-4 weeks afterwards.
  2. I stumble upon a serendipitous opportunity that happens to engage my full curiosity and intention, and something productive happens as a side-effect.
  3. I livestream myself working on the project on YouTube, talking as I do so I am getting the two-fer of sharing the experience.

Approach 1 (store energy then burst) is like an epic death march to the sea experience, working best when there are other mission-focused people by my side who need my contribution to meet a shared goal. Because these tend to be difficult projects, the rewards are high and worthwhile achievements. However, this is not a “natural” state of elevated energy for me, and it exacts a heavy penalty on my health and mental well-being. I can be in this mode for at most 21 days before crippling depression sets in.

Approach 2 (serendipitous opportunity) is my productive procrastination approach. This is more fun, and sometimes produces great things like The Emergent Task Planner, but it’s not good for sustained, purposeful progress on projects that take more than 4 hours to complete. I’ve had some luck trying to schedule this kind of activity (I call it “Happy Bubble Time”), but it’s hard to harness serendipity. Collecting and cataloging after-the-fact is much easier.

Approach 3 is a process that helps me keep moving, and works as an augmentor to Approach 1 and 2. When I’m “live”, my attention is focused on creating momentum, and that’s great for doing work. My memory of what I’ve done also becomes clearer, which creates more frequent feelings of achievement.

TRANSFORMING STRUGGLE INTO COOKIES

There is one working approach I haven’t mentioned, which is work that doesn’t seem like work at all. I don’t think of it as work because it is stuff that I do that is ridiculous and not based in reason or objectivity. I could call them “nerdy passions” or “hobbies”, but they may be crucial contributing factors to the kind of success—creative independence/interdependence—that I crave.

Looking back at my “succinct goals” again:

  • generate money from what I make as I pursue my own interests (creative independence)
  • form connections with like-minded peers, making and sharing what we do collectively (creative interdependence)

These are accurate descriptions of what I think create the foundations of a “happy” existence. However, they do not convey any sense of the kind of excitement that I think I really want. I had never really gotten that far in my thinking, figuring that once I got these goals working then I’d have figured it out. THIS IS TOTALLY BORING. If I drop the pretense of being all “rational” and “level-headed” about what I want out of life, I wouldn’t choose “the satisfaction of having achieved a goal”. That’s another way of thinking in the “deferred reward” sense, and I really dislike deferred rewards. I have taught myself to wait when the waiting is required, but if the waiting is for a “stupid” reason like inefficiency or incompetence, that drives me batshit crazy. I’m going to go ahead and say I DON’T WANT TO WAIT. ME WANT COOKIE NOW.

The satisfaction of achieving a goal, of finishing a project, of having persevered and obtained a rewarding life experience that demonstrates character…these are wonderful things on paper. But it’s not an immediate sense of joy. And that’s more of what I want to experience more in the RIGHT-NOW, not the SOMEDAY-MAYBE-SOON timeframe.

So here’s my new thought: instead of setting “achieving foundational happiness through creative independence/interdependence” as a goal, maybe striving toward the goal of achieving mindblowing productive synergy is more on-the-mark.

MINDBLOWING PRODUCTIVE SYNERGY

I know it sounds silly, but silly epicness is what gets me excited. Let me break it down:

  • MINDBLOWING – This is the opposite of being bored. I hate being bored. I’m bored all the time. It also is an aspect of the kind of experience that gives me joy. I like novelty, great work, and witnessing the skills of people who are generous with their time and knowledge. Something “mindblowing” doesn’t have to be gigantic; it happens in the small too. It just has to elicit my “wow” response.

  • PRODUCTIVE – In my philosophy of productivity, ideas are a dime-a-dozen. I want to see STUFF THAT EXISTS produced by people who have taught themselves how to be masters of their chosen field. Also, this term implies the drive to keep moving forward.

  • SYNERGY – None of the mindblowing productive stuff matters a bit if it’s not actually SHARED with others. That was what was missing from my first sets of Groundhog Day Resolutions, but I didn’t take it far enough. Before, I was thinking of sharing as making a connection possible like a cliffhanger: “I’ve shown you my magic productivity form finally! Tune in NEXT YEAR to see if anything happens!” I need to actively reach out to people. SYNERGY TAKES EFFORT. “Merely showing” your work to someone is the minimum effort; to create the conditions for synergy requires a lot more.

This seems like a worthy goal to set for my Groundhog Day Resolutions for 2017, to supplement what I’ve already (yawn) achieved through creative independence blah blah. I suspect that developing “mindblowing productive synergy” will help me solve my energy problem by harnessing joy itself. This is not exactly “follow your bliss” or “pursue your passion” as a personal development strategy; I’m thinking of it more as an acceptance of what makes me feel alive, which then makes it possible to do all that necessary and boring foundational happiness work.

THIS YEAR’S METHODOLOGY

If you’d like to follow along with your own Groundhog Day Resolutions, here’s how you can participate!

  • Last year I ran a peer group for other people following Groundhog Day Resolutions. I had a short window for people to apply to join the private community in Google Plus, and we posted periodical reports. This went somewhat OK, but it didn’t really become an active community and participation dropped off quite a bit toward the end. For 2017 I’m moving the discussion to our virtual coworking area because I’m already there all the time, and the conversational format of chat is much more “live” that the forum-style interaction we had on Google Plus.

  • I also produced a number of supporting forms from last year, like this goal tracker and its version 2 followup. If you’d like an updated version for this year, stay tuned here on the blog or follow my Patreon support page and let me know what you’re looking for! I’m probably going to make new process forms since my goals are different this year, but hey let’s talk!

  • I am planning on doing Groundhog Day Resolutions-related Challenges. Last year I tried to do it every day, but burned out by day 70 and collapsed. It was just too much for me to handle! This year I’d like to schedule challenges related to whatever “mindblowing productive synergy” ends up being, but limiting the total duration to about 10 days. I think this will help avoid burnout, and encourage faster cycling through these projects.

Here’s my own official list of goals for 2017. I’ll get into the difference between joy and that which is merely interesting in a post later this week; I have quite a few thoughts on the matter!

1. SEARCH FOR MINDBLOWING PRODUCTIVE SYNERGY

This is what I think will create energy and excitement in me, and is a topic well worth exploring in the future. I have deferred too much enjoyment to the nebulous future. I want to find a way to enjoy what I enjoy right now without guilt.

2. RUN A NEAT SIDE BUSINESS

This is the goal from 2016. It’s still a goal, and it still refers to my stationery business selling various Emergent Task Planner products. Expanding the products, reaching new markets, and increasing operational efficiency are three areas I’d like to improve!

3. DEVELOP CREATIVE INTERDEPENDENCE

I think this is the next stage of evolution for my “explore learn build share” process, expanded to include other people. All of my social media outreach, including the virtual coworking chat and the Youtube channel, are related to this goal. Increasing interaction between like-minded creative people is the key metric.

4. PUSH ON THE 10-YEAR GOALS FOR 2024

These are still active, though they have also expanded a bit. I talk about them still quite a bit on my short What’s Up Dave weekday livestreams. They are still challenging, difficult, and promise only uncertain gain in exchange for hundreds of hours of work. But they are probably worth doing; I am hoping that the parallel pursuit of mindblowing productive synergy provides a surplus of energy that makes starting these projects easier.


Finally, here’s this year’s calendar!

DATE HOLIDAY DESCRIPTION
SUN 1/1 New Year’s Day Start thinking about resolutions
THU 2/2 Groundhog Day Make your resolutions. Assemble your peer group.
FRI 3/3 March 3 Review w/ group.
TUE 4/4 April 4 Review w/ group.
FRI 5/5 Cinco de Mayo Review w/ group. Think celebratory, spring-like thoughts!
TUE 6/6 June 6 Mid-Year Review w/ group. Optional break for summer.
FRI 7/7 Tanabata Star Festival Private Review. Make Wishes. Rededicate.
TUE 8/8 Chinese Father’s Day Private Review. Plan for future completion.
SAT 9/9 September 9 Review w/ group. Three months left.
TUE 10/10 October 10 Review w/ group. Two months left.
SAT 11/11 Veteran’s Day Review w/ group. A Day to be Grateful.
TUE 12/12 December 12 End-of-year Review. Break for Holiday Madness.

Thanks for reading, and let’s try to make the most of 2017!



About this Article Series

For my 2017 Groundhog Day Resolutions, I'm challenging myself to pursue mindblowing productive synergy as a way to energize myself to do those boring (but necessary!) foundational projects like "making a living". All the related posts are gathered on the 2017 Challenge Page.

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I believe we all benefit when we respectfully share our perspectives on common experiences. My house rules are "please be respectful of divergent views" and "enjoy the flow of ideas!"

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