(last updated on April 29, 2014)
In yesterday’s post procrastinating alone, I described how I was recovering from a less-than-productive weekend brought on by a feeling of depression. The key insight: I have been feeling rather alone in my endeavor to build things, and the resulting angst was dragging me down. It was difficult to admit that I, as someone who tries to be as independent and self-empowered as possible, was going through that spot of melancholy. But as many commenters pointed out, the blues, they happen and it’s part of life.
One of the main takeaways from yesterday was my recognition that I needed to create relationships that went beyond mere contractual obligations. While I wasn’t exactly sure what this meant, today I had an interesting online experience with a couple of people I’ve never met in person. We’re not working together, but we’re sharing some collaborative thinking in one of my Basecamp areas. I noticed that there was an odd after-school clubhouse feel to the entire experience, which was both unexpected and delightful. This further reminded me of an old friend, sadly passed on, who I used to scheme with on a daily basis. We spent hours outlining grand dreams in great detail, combining our love for media with the desire to make cool experiences for people; it was that daily conversation that kept my energy at a high level.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve felt that lightness of spirit, as opposed to the heaviness I had felt just 24 hours earlier. The funny thing was that the recent experience didn’t require tangible collaboration at all: It was enough just to scheme together.
Perhaps this is the secret. Read onward.
The Joy of Villainous Understanding
As a result of this insight, I have formed a new theory about villains in James Bond movies. You know how the mastermind villain tends to have the bad habit of revealing their plans to Bond, ultimately leading to their undoing? It’s been often mocked as a plot device, but I think one might explain it by recognizing a fundamental problem with organizational growth. Say you’re an evil overlord, with an insanely high IQ and the ambition and resources to match. You’re a self-made man, nothing beyond the well-disciplined grasp of your giant brain. But alas, you’ve had trouble staffing your evil operation with A-level co-schemers. For one things, your peers have their own evil operations going on, and since they’re evil you can’t really trust them in the first place (without leverage, anyway…mua ha ha!) Everyone else you can hire can grasp but a tiny fraction of your majestic vision, and can’t be trusted (company culture issues tend to elude evil masterminds). But Bond, he’s-a-coming to wreck your operation, and thus also validates its importance. Though you are on different sides, you would certainly recognize that you finally have an audience capable of understanding your vision without you having to (sigh) spell it out. Surely, such a person would…understand? I can see why a villain would give in to temptation…it would be such a rare treat to not have to explain yourself, and maybe get a reaction from someone that knows where you’re coming from.
Though I lack the single-minded focus of an top-flight evil overlord, I can still appreciate the value of a good co-schemer. I’m not sure WHY co-scheming is so important, but I do believe there’s a strong human need to share our dreams with a partner that “understands.” I would conjecture that part of the appeal of personal coaching stems from this desire: A coach is there by your side to help you achieve your goals, and though they may not participate materially in the work to be done, it is their job to understand you so they can effectively tell you what you need to do. This is essentially a form of scheming, which I’ll define loosely as having shared mind and vision. The stronger this bond, the more powerful the team becomes. Think of those people in your life with who you share that “co-conspiratorial commitment”: wives, girlfriends, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, best friends, mentors, coaches, teammates, and role models. Every one of these connections is (potentially) a foundational part of our identity, supplying strength that augments our own. It is exhilarating to tap into this energy, and terrifying when you lose it.
I could use me some of that mojo.
Looking Toward Goals, not Tail Lights
Yesterday Seuss left a comment creating an analogy between motorsports and commitment to task: “look toward the goal, not at the tail lights of the car in front of you”. Taking that to heart, it occured to me that I may already have a group of co-conspirators around me.
I’ve been very fixated on the tasks that I thought I needed to get out of the way, and have been demoralized because there’s so much to do. I also hadn’t keep my end goal in mind in a way that was easy to visualize. The forming of committed work and personal relationships is, I think, is my way of recognizing that I have been operating in isolation too long. My modus operandi should then be finding the right people to form those relationships with. I even know who those people are, and I’ve been aware of it for the past couple years: to be around positive, self-empowered, conscientious, and kind people.
As I look up from my planning notebook I’m somewhat embarrassed to realize that, um, those people are already here. I’m surrounded by kind, conscientious, positive-minded and self-empowered people; if you’ve been following this blog, there’s a very high likelihood that you’re someone who shares these values too.
Note to self: DUH.
I thought that I needed to build my lair first, so I could launch my plans and build something of note, and then maybe I could get the revenue and know what to do with it. That’s still important, but I can now move my focus back to the present instead of obsessing about “future Dave” and “future audiences”. But I’m forced to admit: if indeed positive-minded, self-empowered, conscientious and kind people like you are already here, I didn’t think this through and don’t have anything prepared. The first thought that comes to mind, though, is to find out who’s out there and what they have to say. I could be completely wrong about this whole “we’re already here” thing too, but I’d like to hear from anyone who thinks that there’s something to this.
If anything, it’s an interesting thought.