I set aside some time on Sunday to start drafting that master plan I’ve been dragging my feet on. A daunting task! I warmed to the task as I sat at Starbucks, staring at the large piece of paper I had brought for a good ten minutes. Where to start?
My first impulse, just to break the Curse of the Blank Page, was to just draw a triangle in the middle of the paper. This accomplished, I stared at the triangle for another good long time. My coffee, I noticed, had already become cold. Well, I reasoned reasonably, I had better figure out where I want to go. Some glamorous place on the distant horizon that would bring me fulfillment. I drew a horizontal line near the top of the page, frowning slightly at the result, as it seemed TOO distant and perhaps I should have left more sky available, but oh well. Over the next 30 minutes I wrote the following list of metaphorical Five Golden Destinations, which I’ve blogged about in bits and pieces over the past several months.
- The Niche Design Business – Doing design the way I like it, based on story, conversation, investigation, insight, and masterful manipulation of perception through whatever media (writing, print, digital media, interactive) I can produce. Booyah!
- Physical Goods (Books and Published Works) – An encapsulation or packaging of what I’ve learned, in physical form, to be sold as books and e-downloads. I have enough material on the blog, I figure, to distill into usefulness. The newly-minted Emergent Task Planner V2 is the first step in offering product nationwide; Europe will be next.
- Electronic Media, Software, and Online Tools – A 24/7 cavalcade of creative and productive tools based on the ideas I’ve been developing, such as the various Printable CEO forms. IT’S TIME. I know it.
- Community, Local Arts and Crafts, Blogs, and Guilds – A community of my creative peers, local and abroad, that as a group follows through on the desire to create furiously and show the world. This is what helps keep me grounded, and what inspires me to keep moving.
- “Professional Sounding Board” – Not quite coaching. More like a performance review session with custom metrics that we design together; you’re essentially paying for someone like me to give you a perspective outside of yourself, and keep track of it with fun paper tools. Worth paying for?
These are, I think, the most likely sources of future income that feel as if they are aligned with what I naturally do. These are the destinations I am working toward, but how am I going to get there? The next bit I needed is to take stock of what resources I have with which to make the journey. I have three main “powers”:
- The Interest and Urge to Understand and Reconstruct – I am curious about people and their motivations, and strive to understand them. I can’t help it…it’s the way I’m wired. I can’t do anything unless I feel I understand the true nature of what it is to be done. Using this as a strength, it is the foundation of how I approach graphic design. Heck, design of any kind is based on this (my so-called “investigative design process”).
- The Endless Ability to Write and Blog – I have no problem writing about anything, and blogging comes naturally to me. At least, it’s easy when I’m writing about what I believe; it’s quite a different story if I have to write against those beliefs. Sharing what I believe and have learned, in my own voice, representing my views, for the entertainment and enlightenment of my peers. That seems to be what I do.
- Graphics Production Tools and Know How – I know an awful lot about digital media design and production. I’m starting to see this ability as more than a set of tools for hire; it’s an enabling tool that helps me help people get a little further on their way. A snazzy business card, a simple website, or a nice 3D diagram…these can have transformative effects on people. They don’t even need to be very challenging pieces…they merely need to exist in support of the person(s) who are in need of them.
It’s interesting to note that these are the items that I hope to use to get somehow to the Five Destinations; they are my richest, most plentiful resource, to be used in trade to start a new life in those distant mountains of opportunity. In the meantime, I had a number of trade skills that I can use to sustain myself on the journey:
- Programming – I don’t think I’d be a programmer-for-hire, but when I have to be I am a meticulous defensive programmer. Better than average, I’d say. My hangup is that I usually have to rewrite the documentation for myself before I start in a new language, and I have a tendency to document systems exhaustively. For people who just want something quick and hacky done, this can be a seeming waste of time. On the other hand, nearly every project I’ve been a lead programmer on has gotten great reviews about how the code is exceptionally reliable.
- Interactive Design and Development – I can make, Flash presentations, motion graphics, kiosks, and whatever else needs designing, scripting, storyboarding, and making. This isn’t a passion in itself, but it is work that I can do well, and have done for years. Plus I can write my own scripts and edit copy so it makes sense, break down the words into visual concepts that can be produced from an asset list, and do the production planning and asset creation myself in a pinch. It can be lonely work, which is why I don’t do it anymore.
- Web / Internet – Yes, I can also make websites, though I’m kind of rusty at it. I’ve been starting from scratch: researching how to build simple, bulletproof, standards-compliant websites that don’t cost a lot of money; this way I can help the under-served sole-proprietor / artisan / musician market to get on the web for less than $5000 a website. It’s something new I’m trying.
- Graphic Design – This is kind of new for me also, but I’ve been doing more straight graphic design for people in my local creative collective. And, it occurs to me, doing all that Printable CEO stuff is essentially graphic design, albeit of a certain type. So this is something that I’m offering anew, with the “starting from scratch” mentality I am cultivating with the web development work.
- Information Technology – Though I really dislike doing this stuff, I know how to maintain my own computers, run and configure windows and unix/linux servers, and perform maintenance tasks on databases. I’ve painfully learned how to optimize my servers too; Media Temple has even taken some of my research and stuck it in their knowledge base, and a few other tweaks quietly made it into their base (dv) setup too. Oh, and I can install WordPress. This isn’t very impressive to even the most entry-level of IT staffers, but nevertheless there are people that I meet daily who do not have the slightest idea of how any of this technology works. I can help them. It doesn’t hurt that I have a degree in computer engineering, albeit one I’ve never used.
The Master Plan was starting to resemble more of a vantage point from which I could survey the journey I wanted to undertake.
The journey looks like a leap from the cliff of opportunity into the desert below. Between the distant destinations and me on the cliff are three main routes:
- The System of Paid Access and Academic Achievement – The academic and economy-driven life that many of us are used to. It’s a kind of “toll-road through life”, with many ladders and towers to climb and honey pots to be lured into. Ultimately though, I’m seeing it as an area of preparation, not a place to stay. Many enter through the gateways of education and earn passage as they go, though there are back doors into the system. It depends on who you know, and how lucky you are.
- The Labyrinth of Unclear Benefit and Methodology – The rules here are not as clear as they are in The System, but if you can figure out how to traverse the pitfalls and the snakes and plot a few reliable paths through the maze, you can make a living because you’ll have made your own system. Importer/exporters live here. Insurance agents, small business owners, artists, real estate agents…the people who live here have figured out how to make themselves part of the system as providers, not consumers. The Labyrinth also represents the hoops you need to jump through to figure out how to do anything in life.
- The Giant Hole of All Knowledge – This represents the mysteries of culture, life, the universe, and civilization. You could draw what you need from this well, or you could fall right into it if you’re not careful. Denizens of both The System and The Labyrinth draw from its bottomless pit of potential and build their cities from it. I too can draw from its unstructured, unpackaged, essence and create new possibilities from its raw essence. This is the wellspring from which creativity flows, to be shaped into whatever our minds can conceive.
Although they look like obstacles on the map, the three routes are just places to learn from and gather what I need to make it further toward my goal. I have a presence in all three areas; the real trick is not to get stuck in them. The clarity of having five destinations in mind helps orient myself.
There are other features of the map, such as middlemen, guides, “ratholes of opportunity”, challenging places with pointy rocks that are filled with treasures and snakes (I have a sneaking suspicion that I will encounter my dream woman there), renewing oases, and who knows what else. But I need to figure out how to get from here, through those places, to there…
As I was filling in the map, I drew a horizon and some distant mountains, and realized that actually there are two further destinations:
- Distant Mysteries – Even further from the Five Destinations is the gateway to mysteries I have not yet imagined. But they will be more visible from the Five. And I will have the means to do something about it.
- Rocket to the Moon – And with the resources gained from the Five Destinies, maybe I can even go to the Moon. Metaphorically, anyway.
So this didn’t quite come out as a master plan in the way I thought it was, but I think it’s what I needed to see. I have it hanging on my wall right now on a piece of foam core, and because it’s drawn in a way that implies movement from where I am now to where I want to be, it’s creating a draw. I’ll have to take another pass at a more detailed master plan tomorrow; perhaps a specific game plan for just reaching ONE of the five destinies, and then put that into action.