Ground Hog Day Resolution Review 02: Train Wreck of Opportunity

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.


  1. Mark 16 years ago

    I too want to loaf around and do cool stuff with friends. For the past month+ I’ve been consumed with tight turnaround, deadline-oriented, well-paying work: The kind of stuff that drains me and has led me to quit jobs in the past. Yeah, security comes first and then I can turn to some internal projects and products, but this stuff’s killing me. The worst part? It creates an always-on, always-on call mindset that makes me feel guilty if I’m not flying at breakneck speed and at the computer or checking email every minute for a new request. It’s not good.

  2. bex 16 years ago

    I feel that you are setting yourself up to work against your goals.  You want to learn to live cheaper, but you also set a goal of “Learn how to do my own book keeping. Hire an accountant to set me up.”  This seems to be setting you up for the an inbox full of anxiety inducing tasks that you do not want to do and are not naturally good at.

    My (albeit light) read of Tim Ferris’ work resulted in the impression that he wants you to reduce costs, but also do what you do best.  I would challenge you to find paying work in your vocation to do during the time you would otherwise spend doing non-optimal work like bookkeeping (or house keeping, or whatever else is a cost in your view, not a liberator).

  3. Dave Seah 16 years ago

    Mark: I’d be curious what you thought of *The Freedom Manifesto*. While I don’t quite agree with the extremity of the position (it’s perhaps meant to be tongue-in-cheek), it did make me question my value hierarchy in a way that I think has been healthy. What comes to mind when I read your comment is that there has to be some sustainable pace that’s good enough, and not to feel guilty about it.

    Bex: That’s an excellent observation. I admit that I haven’t quite figured out exactly how to balance things. The reason I want to do my own book keeping is so I know how to be mindful of costs. On the other hand, I have no idea how to really do it well enough to deal; I’d like an expert to teach me how it works so I can handle it myself. There is a certain measure of responsibility that I do need to keep for myself; I think watching my costs personally is one of them. But your warning is well taken…I would rather not spend time doing things I suck at UNLESS I find them enjoyable.

    I have only recently realized what my vocation very recently, and I know that I want to pursue it as independently as possible. The tricky part is that I now have to figure out how to pursue my vocation, because I don’t think it’s an easy job category. Or maybe it is, and I’m overthinking it…if I just said, “I make sense out of your stories” and then listed a bunch of skills next to it, maybe that would be enough. It would certainly be an interesting experiment.

  4. Barbara 16 years ago

    Don’t be so hard on yourself, Dave! You have done this: “communicating ideas so ordinary people are empowered by them” so well.

    I was inspired by your 2007 Goundhog Day Resolutions and reviews and decided to shadow you this year, oh master of the GDR. I’m finding that even though I may not feel on track with my resolutions, what little I have managed to do, has inspired and empowered others. What would happen if butterflies stopped flapping their wings?