Ground Hog Day Resolution Review Day 01: Slinking Out the Gate in 2008

Ground Hog Day Resolution Review Day 01: Slinking Out the Gate in 2008

It’s March 3, otherwise known has Groundhog Day Resolutions Review Day No. 1. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I actually never got around to defining what they were, nor did I fill out the new forms I made. I have been caught up in projects, and haven’t had time to really sit and reflect.

Being Single-Focused is not as Relaxing as I Thought

The interesting thing about the current project is that I’m finding the luxury of focusing on a single important task to be somewhat disconcerting. This is a really important project for me, so I find myself thinking a lot about what I “should” be doing to maximize my productivity. You’d think that the single-project focus would be relaxing, but instead I find it enervating. Now that I’m starting to make some progress I am feeling good about, I may relax more and find the time to focus on the rest of my life. In the meantime, I find it difficult to even think about the future. This is, of course, a trap. One of my patterns is that I’m all too willing to supplant my own goals for the good of a project outside of myself which I think of as “the greater good”. If I were being more truthful with myself, I would have to say that I find it easier when someone else is affected directly by my work, because this kind of immediate feedback is what tends to drive my motivation. To use a mechanical analogy, the motive forces behind my actions are directly correlated to my expectation of immediate positive feedback. In other words: I act with vigor when I expect to see results right away. If results are not immediately forthcoming or foreseeable, then I need to rely on external motivation for energy. I didn’t pay heed to that latter requirement, and thus I did not get anything done. I did not even really think about my GHDRs until today, when I realized it was March 3. Oops. No sense in crying about it, so I’ll just pick up where I left off.

Recognizing My Nature and Reframing My Goals

The challenge I am facing today with my Groundhog Day Resolutions is that everything I’ve picked is long term and therefore difficult for me to get excited about. The goal for 2008 I picked in the last post is improved mobility and financial freedom, and this boiled down to selecting “three pillars” of supporting effort:

  • Building Reputation – This opens doors and opportunities, especially if it’s based on tangible value.
  • Financial Engine Building – A continuation of last year’s product creation experiment.
  • Chutzpah – Getting used to self promotion and putting myself out there so opportunities can find me.

Looking at this list, I feel nothing but boredom and ambivalence. Intellectually I know these are all very useful and worthy goals to pursue, but the ring falsely in my ear. For one thing, the self-promotional nature of items 1 and 3 are directly counter to my personality; I don’t like tooting my own horn, and prefer my actions and work to speak for me. Maybe it is better if I could speak to my own awesomeness, but it’s hard for me to get excited by it because it just feels…awkward. The second item, Financial Engine Building, has all the sex appeal of balancing my checkbook. I recently realized that for the majority of my life, I have hated counting anything at all with a passion. I always miscount, and my short-term memory is such that I will forget the count and have to start again. I don’t trust myself with arithmetic, and this creates a pretty negative mindset to start from. This is probably why my productivity forms tend to avoid any kind of explicit summation. On the other hand, I love seeing patterns and trends, and understanding how numbers can mean something. Just don’t make me count stuff.

So I need to de-louse those three pillars to convert them into something that I think will deliver those immediate results right away. The transformation might look something like this:

  • Building reputation -> doing good work, writing good articles, and sharing them through as many channels as possible so people can find them easily.
  • Building financial engine -> hiring an accountant, and getting regular reports so I can see the patterns, and then taking it from there to figure out what I can do to expand my capabilities and income potential through planning.
  • Chutzpah -> meeting people who like my work and like talking about it with other people on my behalf. I don’t mind talking about my work or my life, and I don’t think what I’m doing is particularly special. I believe that if I can do something, anyone can do it too. That’s nothing to brag about, but it is something to celebrate.

Those are tasks that I can get behind.

Personal Hobbies, Health, and Relationships

I’ve been told that I need to get some hobbies, because everything I do tends to be related to making my so-called life more interesting or empowered. I hate being bored, but I also tend to be impatient when it comes to learning new things. I also know that the pain of sucking is a necessary and unavoidable step when learning something new and worthwhile. The goal I am going to pick for 2008 is one that has evaded me for years: music. I might learn to play one song on a musical instrument, of which I have no shortage. I have a couple of MIDI keyboards (88 weighted keys, even), a full suite of digital audio production tools, a digital 4-track recorder, a slide whistle, three guitars, a couple of OK microphones, ready access to friends and relatives who are music ethnographers and composers, a flute that I recently had re-padded from my short-lived junior high school band days, a few books on music theory, and a good sense of relative pitch. I just can’t play anything worth a darn. The embarrassment of being really awful at this, plus the confusion and ceaseless questioning that takes me when I engage a new subject, all conspire to make my threshold of action fairly high. I am going to leave this goal pretty open; I’d be happy with any progress at all. What will be difficult to overcome is my incredible resistance to traditional rote-learning and drill-based methodology, and my desire for well-structured documentation and insightful providers of technique informed by practical experience. I’ll have to learn to suck it up and make a lot of false starts until something sticks.

In terms of health, I’d like to step up the gym routine. I’ve actually been bad about this lately due to all the traveling I’ve been doing disrupting my day, getting sick a couple of times, and also taking it easy before I get my first physical in 4 years done. I have been concerned that maybe I have been overdoing it; I’ll find out in a couple of weeks where I stand in terms of my precious organs and bodily fluids. I actually did schedule a physical, so I think that counts as progress this month.

In terms of relationships, I am coming to the end of a phase in which I realize that I don’t like working alone. This realization covers both work and my personal life. I actually have been pretty happy with how my level of connectedness is via the Internet and daily communication with people, but I think it is time to start branching out and making new commitments because by myself I am limited. The past 3 or 4 years of freelancing have taught me that I like it and can make an OK living solo, but my satisfaction has come entirely from the connections I’ve made with people. Freelancing merely gave me the freedom to make those connections on my own terms. It is time to make some new terms with people I care about, and to make some commitments. I really don’t know what I mean other than by expressing the sentiment. Figuring out what I mean by that is this year’s goal, and I think it will come from forming new personal commitments that have scope outside my own self-interest. I have a great deal of anxiety about not screwing this up—I really hate disappointing people, which tends to make me risk-averse in sharing ambitious goals that I can’t predict success from the get-go.

Summing Up

I still haven’t filled out my own goal-setting sheets, which makes me think that they are possibly flawed in concept. I’ll fill them out in a couple days (I know, you’ve heard that one before) and post them.

Looking back at what I just wrote, I would say that I am purposefully admitting that I have several personal idiosyncrasies that prevent me from approaching my goals directly. I’m not a natural go-getter. I procrastinate. I need lots of external motivation. I’m impatient. I can be kind of a dick about the quality of instruction materials. But I am not going to blame myself for being less than perfect. What matters is that I can route my way around the problem areas and still make progress. It may not be as pretty, but I think getting anything done at all is pretty awesome, so long as no one gets hurt or disenfranchised by my actions.

Just gotta keep going, I tell myself.


  1. Joseph Bernard 16 years ago

    David, I appreciate the process of self-discovery you explore in this post.  I have found out that each of us is wired differently as far as what motivates us.  I know that money is not a motivater for me even though I would like lots.  I can do things that have heart and purpose, to make a difference but to do things to make money feels dull.  Lists seem to drive me nuts.  I feel trapped because lists just keep on being replaced by more to dos.

    I have to be more guided by intuition, by meaningfulness, by an inner desire.  If I try to do what I should, I feel should on.

    We are simply amazing creature, with our own way of doing things that work best for us.  I suggest everyone find out what works best and grow even more tuned in to who you are.  Desire is a powerful force of knowing, so is our heart, our gut and our higher self.

    Have a good day,


  2. AMP 16 years ago

    Ever thought of singing?  One of the most important things I did in college was join a community choir.  At the time, I had a decent ear but couldn’t read music.  I had also never thought I had a great voice.  But blending my voice with others greatly diminished the “pain of sucking,” and the regularity of rehearsals ensured that I was constantly learning and improving.  By the time a year had passed, I’d picked up the ability to sight-read and noted a great improvement in breath control.  My range improved.  Concerts provided opportunities to perform publically long before I’d have been able to do so on an instrument.  By the time two years had passed, I was beginning to actually consider myself a singer.  It’s been four years now, and I’ll never give it up.

    Most importantly, having such a great starting place launched me through the difficult parts of the learning curve, straight to that happy place where motivation is automatic.  I can now converse intelligently with other musical people, and I enjoy classical music more than ever before.  Most importantly, there are many potential “next steps.”  I could try to compose, learn to conduct, or even learn to accompany myself on guitar or piano.  One of these days, I may even go back and take some college-level music theory.  Who knows!

    One final note—many choirs suffer from a relative shortage of men, particularly tenors.

    That’s just my experience… however you decide to do it, music is awesome.  Best of luck!

  3. katrina 16 years ago

    Hi Dave!

    Welcome back.  I have been writing about my goals and my process for achieving them this year because of your example last year. 

    What is amazing to me is how much you discount your brilliance.  You may not realize this, but not everyone can do what you do.  Just because it seems straightforward to you does not mean it is for others.

    It took me a while to realize that I was making that same assumption.  I now know that when something “seems” obvious to me or almost intuitive, it may actually be a sign of mastery.  And just like olympic class athletes, it only looks easy cuz you are just that damn good.  ;-D

    I have missed your posts, but then I too have been waay busy.  Maybe we both need to make time to write more about our processes.

    Good luck,

  4. John Ballantrae 16 years ago

    Well, I know what you mean about music, and one day I hope to be able to string a few notes together, but I want just to play and don’t want to have to learn. One day a while ago, I caught most of a tv show about the piano – and the presenter, Alexander Waugh, was saying that anyone can learn to play the piano in three lessons. You just have to play. Alexander is a journalist, author and opera critic. This link will take you to a short youtube clip from the show.
    I’ve never posted a link to a youtube video, so if it doesn’t work, go to youtube and search for alexander waugh – it’s the piano clip and not the other one.

  5. AMP 16 years ago

    “You just have to play” is right.  I think that’s why joining a choir worked so well for me.  Without fully realizing it, I was putting in five hours of moderate effort per week.  Eventually, it does add up.