Ground Hog Day Resolution Review 02: Train Wreck of Opportunity

It’s already April 4th, and I admit it: I’ve been slacking on my Groundhog Day Resolutions. After 2007’s promising run, I’d hoped that 2008 would be even stronger, but this hasn’t been the case. I think I know why too: so far, there is nothing to get excited about. Looking back at last month’s review, I can see the malaise creeping in; instead of being a source of joyful ambition, this year’s Ground Hog Day Resolutions feel like a chore. Just look at this list from last month’s weenie post:

  • Get a Hobby
  • Build Reputation
  • Build a Financial Engine
  • Be more Outgoing

I mean, it’s a fine thing to want to improve myself, but this list sucks. It’s boring, and it completely lacks specificity. I’m surprised…I should know better.

What’s Exciting? I Dunno

I know that the logical next-step is to define my goals so I can take concrete, measurable steps toward them. I’m just not that excited about them, therefore I haven’t mustered the energy to define them. The promise of a nebulous “better future” doesn’t really capture my imagination, and I just realized why that is: I am envisioning a toolish future of a smooth-running financial operation that gives me time to pursue my hobbies. This is a future based on the premise that I need security first before I can even think of the fun stuff that comes later. Without that vision of the fun stuff, I can’t get excited about. I am, as Tim Ferriss might say, being a DEFERRER, putting off the things I want to do. But WHAT is that?

My sister Emily, the source of many of the cooler things I’ve been exposed to, recently sent me British author Tom Hodgkinson’s The Freedom Manifesto. She’d picked it up one day while in a foul mood at the South Station book stand, and she said it “cheered her up.” I actually didn’t read it for quite a few weeks, figuring that I’d already “freed myself” from a lot of the preconceptions that the book purported to address. When Em reiterated that it was quite good, I decided to read it while on the long flight to San Jose last week; this was the missing half of the solution to the life puzzle I’ve been working on. The first half of the solution was realizing that yes, I could start to create my own means to pursuing a more interesting life, which was triggered by the review copy of Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Work Week I’d read last April. The book is designed to giving you the means to construct a self-funding lifestyle along with the necessary supporting mindset; while I’d had pieces of that mindset, I didn’t have a workable model in my head. Hodgkinson’s The Freedom Manifesto is proving to have a similar effect on me, this time from the angle of defining an interesting life. And the answer is surprisingly low-key: I want to have a good life with my friends. This dovetails neatly with my previous insight regarding the kind of people I want to be around, the positive-minded, conscientious, self-empowered and kind folk that make life a pleasure. In other words, I’d rather like to loaf around and do interesting things with my friends. The book is remarkable in its cheeky stand against the guilt-driven productivity mindset. The attitude is quite refreshing, and it’s helped me figure out just what it is about GTD that leaves me uneasy: I don’t want to just get better at clearing my inbox to reduce my anxiety. Instead, I don’t want to have an anxiety-inducing inbox in the first place; figuring out a way to do that is what I’d rather be doing. That’s the basic premise of The Freedom Manifesto. I am outlining the book so I can do a full review on it later.

Anyway, what both books have in common is the don’t defer mindset. In Ferriss’ book, he does his best to break you of the notion that you have to follow the same path that everyone else is following to retirement, and describes in detail how you can create a means of supporting your dreams if you put the work into that right now. It’s quite practical in its approach, though the lack of a politically-correct justification for the techniques described (outsourcing, selling products) bothers the people who believe there is a moral component to making a living. Hodkinson’s book is all about morality, and his stance is that capitalism and the pervasive anxiety-inducing work-ethic–which he argues is the fault of no-fun Puritans and the Industrial Revolution–is just plain evil. So don’t play into those enslaving systems, which trap you in their cycle of working-and-consuming for the benefit of feeding massive corporate profits, and start living now. At first I was skeptical, but after reading the book I have to say that there’s much to reconsider regarding my so-called goals. Many of them are rooted in the notion that self-improvement is a noble pursuit in itself, as are career building and social responsibility. Hodgkinson points instead to self-sufficiency, vocation, and taking responsibility, which resonates with me more.

Back to My Goals

Here’s what’s important to me right now:

  • Figuring out how to be a full-time writer and content creator. I like this, and I’d like to make a living at this.
  • Reducing my needs. If I can live cheaper, then I need less money. Gotta pay off debt, also, but this can happen over time.
  • Work based on my Vocation. I can finally say this with certainty: my vocation is understanding and communicating ideas so ordinary people are empowered by them. That’s what I do well, and it’s what I love to do. It’s not design development, or even writing; these are just the tools that serve the vocation.

The key activities that relate to my goals are pretty simple:

  • Make Content, and Sell It. I still have a bunch of ETP pads to sell, but my ecommerce solution doesn’t handle inventory. Gotta get on that.
  • Learn how to do my own book keeping. Hire an accountant to set me up.
  • Start changing my “service offerings” to reflect my unique blend of skills, emphasizing communication and clarity as my essemtial product.

So let’s see how that goes on May 5th (5/5), the next Ground Hog Resolution Review Day.