GHD Resolution Review Day 2

It’s the second Groundhog’s Day Resolution Review Day of 2007! Since the last review day, I’ve made some progress on my three personal resolutions. Here’s what they are again:

  1. Commit to Deriving Income from Writing and Making Stuff
  2. Build Sustainable Social Networks
  3. Sell a Product This Year

So what has been accomplished in the month-and-one-day since I last checked in? Read onward!

Deriving Income from Writing and Making Stuff

The premise of this resolution is that I would rather be making a living doing things I like. Since March, I’ve grown more comfortable with this. I’ve also realized that “writing” and “making stuff” are just the surface of what it is that I enjoy; the insights from making a master plan and recognizing I’m already “here” are that there’s a process for the pursuit of happiness that I’m starting to see more clearly.

As I write that sentence, I sense there’s a lot more than just “writing” and “making stuff” at stake here. When I’m trying to figure out what’s really going on, I ask about intention, motivation, and expectation. Applied to this goal:

  • Intention — the immediate action steps I have in mind — With regards to “writing”, this means making more words, but it also means thinking. Writing is the process by which I make thinking visible. Applied thinking is, perhaps, the strategy offering. With regards to “making stuff”, my immediate set of actions is to actually create something physical as some kind of product.

  • Motivation — the reason I’m doing this — Writing is something I do pretty fluidly and naturally, and I’d like to do it more because (1) it comes to me easily and (2) I enjoy it. But I have to remember also that writing by itself is not fun for me unless there is application. That means that people can read, enjoy, or apply what I write about; that’s what completes my positive feedback cycle. As for “Making Stuff”, this is not something that comes as easily to me, but I like real things because people live in the real world and it’s physical or sensory contact that triggers their reactions. If I want to create positive reactions of any kind, then creating real objects is another pathway to that.

  • Expectation — what I think will result as a result of following through with my actions — On a personal level, I’m thinking that I will make living by doing something I am good at and like doing. On a pragmatic level, I may be able to produce more for less energy. I am also hoping that since these are two areas in which I believe I can excel, it is the most direct and independent route to success.

Already, I can see that “writing” and “making stuff” are both vehicles for the same desire: to create positive experiences and get paid for it. I would clarify it further by saying that “positive experience” must also include my own. It hasn’t always been that way. My first and second attempts to follow this path, I now see, were game design and development and new media / interactive design. My third attempt was to work in more executive-level roles, a transition that I didn’t entirely buy into. While I think I achieved a modicum of success in all these areas, I didn’t achieve Personal Fulfillment. At the end of the day, a lot of the work is about filling boxes, on time, in exchange for cash. What can compensate for that is greater purpose, the sense of mission or calling, and camaraderie. This is the larger scope with which I’m struggling…I can’t “find” these things, but if I’m lucky I will stumble upon them as I practice what’s really important to me: create positive experiences, by writing things and making things for people to see. Money and satisfaction may follow…that’s my hope and expectation. But I digress. Let’s talk hard numbers: what progress have I made since March? Well, I’ve made a plan, I’ve put it out there for people to look at, and I’ve talked to several people. I’m talking more with people who are doing things for themselves. And I am almost ready to start emphasizing the writing side of my work over the “Pixels Pushed for Hire” model that I’ve pursued to date. I mentioned elsewhere that the new “offering” might be called strategic storytelling and design; the next step is to hammer out the processes behind that. What’s exciting is that for the first time I’m creating a niche for myself as a new product, based on my understanding of how people make decisions about who they work with. And…how do I make it interesting? There are other names for what I’m trying to do: strategy, consulting, information architecture, and experience design are related terms that come to mind. However, to my ear they sound pretty dry and unfunky. It’s easy to forget, as I have many times, that these are all packages created to serve a very specific market: the risk-averse corporate decision maker who is looking for that reliable boost on a budget. My emphasis is different: apply storytelling and game design methodologies to clarify intention, motivation, and expectation, then deliver a compelling package that accomplishes the mission with custom-designed artifacts. Back to next steps: I’ve got to write this stuff up and stick it on a web page. It’s a start to defining the best practices that deliver benefits to the decision makers that I want to reach. It’s also got to get people excited about it. I am also thinking of how to create “bundles” of writing services that encourage people to tap into the mind of David Seah at an affordable price point :-) Perhaps a pay-per-question service? More on that sometime in the future.

Building Sustainable Social Networks

I used to be quite introverted, but what started getting me to come out of my shell was the realization that people are really quite interesting; the more people I met, the more I learn about the universe. Plus, I resonate most with conscientious and passionate people, and being around that energy around me is a critical motivating factor for my own work. If I can’t feel that energy around me, then I need to invest in making it myself. That is the mission behind this resolution. There are quite a few things that I’ve been doing in this area, though maybe I haven’t been as concrete in setting goals:
  • I’m participating in local Meetup groups, just to meet people. Everyone you meet is a trove of new information and experiences.

  • I’m working on this website to make it more community-oriented and collaboration-friendly. A first step is to just reorganize the content so people can find the stuff they like, and then be able to return to it and make comments as they’d like. I also just set up a public wiki to mess around with; I’m not sure what to do with it yet, but I’ll probably link to it as a kind of “public scratch pad” for certain posts.

  • I went to SXSW Interactive 2007 to reconnect with old friends and to make new ones. I had the greatest conversation on the plane coming home, with someone I never met. The power of meeting people, again. At SXSW I attended mostly the panels about community and collaboration.

  • I’m figuring out how to keep track of people. I have made contact with a lot of people in email and online, and I have been forgetting names and conversation threads. How to psychiatrists do this? My purpose is to keep track of as many relevant threads as possible so I can be the link between interesting people and their ideas. I believe that this is a fundamental element of successful social networking, and if I can help people find each other, then I’m doing my job. It’s sustainable because I like learning about people, and as I’ve said it feeds into my motivation for doing other things.

  • Recognizing the power of the random connection, I signed up for speed dating. I have no expectations other than I’ll meet some people I’ve never met before who want to meet other people to make a potentially deeper connection. I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m sure it will also be an interesting experience from the writing perspective too.

  • I’ve been more open to collaboration and figuring out some way of making it happen in a way that works for everyone involved. I’ve posted a bit about that on the blog.

So I’m making progress here: I’m meeting people, making the effort to create a network, and am looking for collaboration opportunities. Collaboration is one of the elements of my master plan, and by posting it online I have gotten some great email from people.

Sell a Product This Year

My master plan outlined two of them: a book and a product. The master plan was the first step in making this a reality, and posting this publicly was the second step. I got some nice email from several people who were interested in various Printable CEO™-related pieces, including a small press publisher who offered to share his hard-won knowledge and a guy interesting in a collaborative licensing deal. So, this might happen a lot quicker than I thought. There is nothing in the way of actually manufacturing and selling a product, I’ve realized. The big hurdle is just making it. My next step is to focus on one thing and push it out there. I will take two approaches:
  1. Write a short PCEO pamphlet for the Concrete Goals Tracker that distills the best parts into a single process. I’m guessing this will be about 24 pages. I may offer it immediately on Lulu.com or something like that, and I’ll also have something that can be shown to various small presses that might be interested in running it themselves.

  2. Get the ETT or the ETP printed and available for sale. This is a dependent on having some money to do it, or working out a licensing deal that protects my intellectual property and “brand” without hamstringing the partner.

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p>So this is pretty straightforward I think. On May 5th, I should at least have (1) done.

The Road Ahead

I recently came across a comment to my post Investigative Design by the one and only Peter Flaschner, who provided this wonderful bit of guiding insight:

Ultimately, a Synthesist’s job is to just be. He’s to follow his interest until he’s called on to act. That calling can be external (a client, an opportunity) or internal (a sudden need to do something). He’s to hone his abilities to input culture and learn how to read his own mind for cues from his unconscious brain – to make the unconscious conscious.

It’s very close to who I am, and it helps define my personal mission. Accepting and embracing that identity, in the face of a world that may not get it, can be tremendously daunting. One approach is to say screw you world! I’m me! I’m going to do it my way! However, the more pragmatic way for me is to figure out how to build a bridge between my view of the world and those who share it, so we can find each other and do something kick-ass. It’s an interesting problem from both the design and marketing perspective.

It’s also becoming apparent to me that I need to formalize the business side of things, particularly from the legal and accounting side of things. If I’m going to embark on all these different projects, it behooves me to create a legal entity around which I can build more infrastructure. While the idea of building a company doesn’t excite me at all, being one helps when it comes to dealing with other companies that offer services and work. There are also tax and liability advantages to working under the company umbrella, and I will be insane to not take those steps. Finding a good business partner might work here; I’ve thought of going to local colleges to find some business-oriented students interested in helping me put something together.

So that’s the April 4th Report. For the next one (May 5th), I’m expected to have made tangible progress in the form of the following:

  • Defined the “strategic storytelling” and “philosophy”, for posting on the new website.
  • Created the first semblance of a freelance connection network, maybe applying the talent network criteria I was thinking about. Wiki-based, I’m thinking.
  • Created a small book for the PCEO™

Ok! I think I have a plan!