(last updated on April 29, 2014)
It’s already May 5th, so it’s time for another Groundhog Day Resolutions review. I do these every month and one day: February 2, March 3, April 4th…you get the idea.
Recognizing Internal Motivation Limits
In the last two updates, I found I had floundered quite badly. I think it’s accurate to say that I’d stopped believing in the original mission I’d originally set forth:
- Commit to Deriving Income from Writing and Making Stuff
- Build Sustainable Social Networks
- Sell a Product
I’d even made myself a worksheet to help clarify my goals, but this was a big bust. Even I didn’t want to use it. It felt too much like work, and there was not anything I could immediately act upon without having to sit down and do some planning.
I was very bummed out by this failure in my ability to self-motivate, until I realized that there’s one key contextual difference between 2007 and this year: I have been on a full-time project since last November, and my patience for planning is all used up by the time I get to my personal projects. Do you know someone who is incredibly organized at work, but a complete slob at home? Or maybe you know someone who’s great at dealing with people all day, but just wants peace and quiet when they’re finally off the clock? I think something similar happens with me with regards to planning and organization: while I value and understand the processes and even have some chops at it, it taxes my patience and energy. Once my reserves are used up, it’s gone for the rest of the day. I want it to be as easy and natural as possible. So, I’d best find an alternate source of motivational energy, preferably one that is not as easy to exhaust.
One possibility: find someone to serve as the external source of motivation. This is a long-term prospecting job, because I know from experience that it takes time to mesh two people’s motivations together without one of them feeling put off.
Alternatively, I could try to achieve the same goals without planning. That might sound like a recipe for disaster to a veteran project manager, but consider this: the planning process exists so one can systematically create tangible results. People sometimes forget this, and that’s when organizational dogma starts setting in. If there’s another way to achieve the same results, that’s just as valid an approach.
The Goals In Review
So let me review last month’s goals, when I realigned them with personal desire and away from the implicit “desire for success” approach I’d started with:
- Figuring out how to be a full-time writer and content creator, because I like it.
- Reduce my needs. If I can live cheaper, then I need less money, and can work less.
- Work based on my vocation, so it’s work that sustains me in spirit, mind and body.
In the month since then, I’ve been thinking constantly about these three goals, and have come to some conclusions about how writing is my inexhaustable supply of expression. It is what I do constantly, so automatically that it didn’t even register as a “passion” or “vocation”. I also had the realization that it’s one-on-one communication that’s most important to me. That doesn’t mean that I can only write for an audience of one, it means that it’s important for me to reach the individual who’s reading to deliver my message, and ultimately help empower them with new ideas.
It’s also important for me to recognize that writing is not the only means by which I can express. I can work with digital media as a designer and programmer, and I can also put together functional information graphics design. There are a lot of ways one can express any given idea, and I’m quite excited by that. That said, it’s even more important for me to point out that expression is merely the vehicle for delivering that empowering idea or critical bit of information. If anything, I’d like to be creating or packaging those empowering ideas for consumption by people who will directly reap the benefits. I believe this is my true focus. I expressed this last time as “my vocation is understanding and communicating ideas so ordinary people are empowered by them.”
On a side note, the very act of declaring what I want to be…that is, to try to make a living as someone who does thinking and writing, is incredibly scary. It feels like I’m making myself a target because I’ve made a declaration without having a clear sense of what it means. However, I’m heartened by the memory of talking to a classmate of mine from the 4th or 5th grade in Harvard Square (yes, that Harvard). I was having a meal with a number of fellow high school alums who were attending, and this guy Lucian was there too. I hadn’t seen him in years, so I was asking him what he was up to for a major. He rattled through something about either Physics or Psychology, but then said that he was looking to make a change to do what he’s always wanted to do. Curious, I inquired what that might possibly be. At this he burst into a wild smile, and declared that his dream was to sing Opera. His parents, both artists, apparently weren’t so keen on the idea at the time. I remember the pure joy mixed with an aura of insanity and doom at that moment, and I wished him all the best. I think my enthusiasm surprised him, and he seemed to appreciate it. That was the last time I saw him, and I never did find out how the story went. I feel I’m in a similar place, some 20 years later, mustering up the courage to make a declaration of intent that will take me quite outside my comfort zone. Yikes!
I am going to let the entire next month go along the same lines of thoughtful reflection, though I am going to schedule two reflection days on the 15th and 29th respectively. I am deliberately not planning a course of action, but I am instead going to use those two days to identify opportunities that require zero planning and nearly-immediate results.
Incidentally, I finally fixed printing on the website, after a reader pointed it out. I believe it had been mentioned once or twice in passing to me, but I hadn’t actually seen the problem with my own eyes until recently. So you can now print out articles, stripped of sidebar images and pesky navigation, for your archives. I apologize for the long delay in addressing the issue. I figure having easily-printed content contributes a bit toward toward my writing goals by making the words easier to distribute.