Groundhog Day Resolution Review Day 10/10/2010
SUMMARY: Last month, I came to the conclusion that all the searching I’ve been doing over the years has come to an end, because I am already doing what I think I should be doing: focus on the search itself. Because I am strongly driven to search, I assumed that there was a destination or natural endpoint; isn’t that the point of searching? Instead, I am starting to think the prize is the freedom to search itself, a way of living that happens to produce golden eggs of opportunity.
This makes the business plan much clearer: support the search activity by sharing my findings, and opportunities will continue to present themselves. But first: I have to acknowledge some selfish thoughts.
At the beginning of these GHDR posts, I usually reread the past two month’s worth of insights and then look at whatever notes I might have kept. I have been pretty bad at keeping notes this past month, as I’ve been doing more PHP / WordPress customization work for a few clients. Yes, webwork! It’s pretty low-key stuff, but meaningful because the clients are people that I actually enjoy talking to. These are people that I just happened to come across, or who came across me on the blog. Again, the invisible hand of my unvocalized-yet-manifest business plan moves me along.
But I digress. The richest accessible vein of continuity is the last four weeks of Google Waving with Colleen. I’ve gotten in the habit of jotting down what’s going on in the Wave (while it’s still with us), because it’s fun and safe to write down what I’m thinking there. It’s like having a magic mirror; I write down whatever half-baked thoughts are rattling around inside my skull, and then the mirror speaks back with whatever wry observations and mirror-world wisdom is appropriate. Sometimes I’m the apparition in the mirror too; it’s a good gig and I highly recommend it if you are the type that enjoys writing in an open, diary-like fashion.
But I digress yet again.
Mapping Core, Dark Principles
The past month was one of mental preparation for the months to come. Half the time was devoted to the adult requirements: getting the car fixed, working on projects, and cleaning up my workspace. The rest of the time was spent developing a few core principles with shocking (for me) forthrightness. I essentially gave myself permission to be really selfish.
First, I recognized that I was feeling isolated, that I missed certain people who’d moved away recently, and that had put me in a foul mood.
Secondly, I recognized I was feeling creatively and productively frustrated in tasks that only I could do.
Thirdly, I berated myself once more for not being more productive, and sulked.
After this, the only direction I could move in was up, up, up. I sternly reminded myself that:
I’m a grownup, and though my resources are limited they are by no means minuscule. Quite the opposite! If I think about it, I can call upon dozens of people and start moving in any direction very quickly. What holds me back, though, is the lack of an inspired plan consisting of a tangible objective and a profitable exit strategy.
Yes, things are hard, but there’s no utility in whining about it. Start digging now, and you’ll get done that much sooner.
There are unarticulated moral codes that I have, some which are good and some which are bad. The bad ones operate under the blanket fallacy of preferring the fears I know over the fears that might be.
Bolstered by this dose of reality, I then mustered 30 minutes of fire-breathing selfishness and admitted what felt like dark truths to myself:
I want to be the author of works that are known and beloved. I imagine an adolescent finding a copy of my book in the library, through which he/she discovers a path that amplifies their own unique perspective on the world to discover and express their secret talents.
I want my work to be original and novel, audacious in proclaiming that as far as I’m concerned, excellence can be described in the manner I describe.
I need no permission from anyone else to do these things, because they do not have authority in the first place. The only authority I need is success.
I also recognize I am not entitled to success. I can only earn it through the sweat of my own labor and the ready-sharing of my gifts with others who subscribe to these same values.
To openly proclaim what I want to do, in this manner, feels self-serving, egotistical, and elitist. And it is. I am saying that I want to be in a different class of achievement, and this implies there are people who are “in” and people who are “out”. It also seems inherently undemocratic: shouldn’t we all be getting along under a universal accord of acceptance of all our fellows?
This has always been a difficult moral challenge for me, because I want to believe that everyone deserves a chance and that everyone deserves respect. And I know that strong statements can be scary, make people nervous, and create stress. The last thing I want to do is stress people out and make them feel like crap; I’ve done this inadvertently plenty of times over the years, bringing tears and terrible doubts to the surface that wasn’t deserved, and I have become very cautious about it. I don’t want to be evil. I don’t want to make anyone sad. I don’t want anyone to feel excluded. I wish we could all go together.
And yet…there is a limit to my patience and my strength. It’s difficult to acknowledge my limits, but if I want to achieve my own happiness, perhaps I should stop worrying so much about hurting other people’s feelings when I haven’t done anything yet. At some point, I have to acknowledge that it’s kind of insane to not doing something because someone might take offense or feel disenfranchised. To those people, I say this: You have opportunity to do the same yourself. What is stopping you other than your own excuses? In the meantime, I am going to be doing my own thing here. Hopefully we can co-exist with our different ideas of what is, and what should be.
I also realize that everyone is driven by desire of some kind. I’m no different, and I’m acutely aware of this fact. I could spin what I want to do so it sounds more selfless, saying that I am driven to help people find and express themselves and find their full potential. However, I know that’s not acknowledging the underlying desire: I want to help people find their full potential because I like seeing it happen, and I like people like that. I am not a shepherd, promising to lead people to the greener pastures of a promised land. I’m more like a jeweler. I see the potential in the rough stone and with a few deft cuts draw out the inherent beauty in a person and her works, because I love to see it. After that, the jewel will have many adventures without me, but I will take pleasure in knowing that people will know that part of that beauty is due to my handiwork. It is a prideful wish, but it’s there, and I feel I must acknowledge it openly.
So how do I reconcile the desire to include people and at the same time walk this path of seeming exclusion? I got a bit of a hint from Kamikaze Girls, which is a cheerful story about two outcast Japanese teenagers who in an unlikely manner become comrades. Momoko likes to dress up in frilly dresses and dream of living during the Rococo era. Ichiko is a tough-as-nails biker gang girl. In the climactic last scene, Ichiko is about to be beaten-up for blowing off a gang meeting to help Momoko in a time of need:
GANG LEADER (speaking to soon-to-be-ex-gang member ICHIKO): Figure you can just leave? Figure your frilly friend is more important?
ICHIKO (surrounded by gang members): She’s no friend!
(shocked look from MOMOKO, the “frilly friend”)
ICHIKO (continues): She stands up for herself! She follows only her own rules! Next to her, you sheep are worth nothing!
I pondered this, and realized that the ideal case, if I dare dream for it, is to have friends like that. People who stand up for themselves, who have transformed themselves or are in the process of transformation. Those are the people who I trust and hold dear, who I want to see empowered, who I can see making a difference one person at a time. Because, I believe, that’s how ultimately we ALL make a difference. It’s on an individual level, person-to-person. To speak in abstract moralities about the human condition is not the same as being human. Most of the time, it doesn’t work out 100% in everyone’s favor, and I know (sadly) that I’m not going to get along with everyone. But in the act of choosing, I think I’m at least taking a stand and perhaps THAT way, I’ll find others who, like me, are busy following the cord of their own destinies as well. Alone, yet together.
If I dare stand the same way, myself.
High Hopes and Lightning Bolts
In a way, this signals the beginning of a new journey. I was searching for the path before, and it turns out I could’t see it because I thought the path was the end destination and I’d be DONE. Instead, I find that now the level of peril is elevated: I am now saying I have aspirations to do great things, and in all the mythologies I’ve read this always seems to result in something awful happening, nemesis following hubris.
So yeah, I’m a little freaked out by proclaiming my intentions openly. Not prudent. Not safe. Giving up the advantage of SURPRISE, and so forth. But I believe this is what I need to do to scare me down the path of productivity. We shall see what happens.
I see I’ve written 14 blog posts covering a range of topics since 9/9/2010. On a broad scale, this means that I’ve been at least getting more comfortable writing, though I’m not on a regular schedule. I’ve also made quite a few little tweaks to the blog infrastructure; WordPress has been a pleasure to work with.
I’ve also expressing through different forms of media: a new podcast episode, a how-to video, a couple of PDFs. This has resulted in a rise in traffic, since there have been more things to read. More importantly, it gives me practice in more forms of media expression, which can only come in handy someday.
The less-visible goal has been to rebuild personal continuity around the blog. The crass rationale for this is that when I have continuity (that is, the hour-to-hour and day-to-day sense that my actions now are related to actions in the past and the future) of any kind, my productivity improves. Improved productivity results in more focused, useful output that attracts people who recognize it as such, which in turn primes the pump for future opportunities. On a more personal level, continuity also includes having people to do the work for, providing affirming commentary that makes me feel like I’m on the right track. Don’t underestimate good morale when it comes to productivity!
I’m missing a certain kind of continuity, though: teamwork. People sharing diverse interests in the same space provides the nourishing context that make superior ideas possible in the first place. I have a number of stalled projects with other people that have bogged down because I have not worked out the dynamics of one-on-one collaboration. I have found it very difficult, as I’ve always been something of a solo act, and I also have the bad habit of deferring to other people’s opinions first because I don’t want to just bulldoze over someone’s idea. I need to fix this.
One last thing on my mind is the creation of products that can produce a passive revenue stream in a way I can feel good about. The basic model that comes to mind is that I’m charging for convenience and aesthetics, for people who value those things. However, before I can do that, I need to nail down some production facilities (commercial printers) and create the products that I think are worth producing without locking up money I don’t have. The unknown aspects of this (what are they? will they sell? how long will it take to make one?) are demoralizing enough to keep me from starting them, but start them I must. No one has the answer, so I must dive in and find it myself.
And the cycle of search begins anew, but for once with a renewed sense of purpose and a wary alliance with my own selfish desires.