SUMMARY: I’ve been feeling that there are too many things going on, diluting my efforts to make significant progress. But how do I pick what to focus on and what to ignore? First, I acknowledge that I am feeling uncertain about some aspects of my current work, getting the negative out in the open so I can have a good look at it. Then I synthesize the list of things to focus on for now that alleviate those fears through recommitment to principle.
This past Friday I was feeling pretty burned out, and so mentioned I it in the Google Wave-enabled “Do Not Hurry. Do Not Wait” experiment with Communicatrix. Do you know what happens when two verbose bloggers start using Google Wave? You get a flood of insights and anecdotes, that’s what! Highly recommended, if you can find yourself this situation! Checking what’s new on the Wave has become my favorite daily activity, as it provides a place to maintain my own sense of continuity while seeing how someone else handles their day. It’s entertaining and informative. I used to get this same sense of continuity from Twitter, but now I use it to see “what’s going on in the world.” As a result, my Twitter stream has become the antithesis of continuity and focus.
Anyway, on Friday I started a new Wave with Colleen™ with the theme of Recentering, Reducing, Refocusing, and Rebooting. It seemed to me that I had too many things going on delivering too little in return, and my impatience was rising. It’s been three whole months since I identified my master vantage point, which gave me a clear sense of where I wanted to go in 2010. And in that master vantage point, I’d identified five destinations I wanted to reach, each representing a type of success that I am confident will be worth the effort. In the time since pointing them out, I’ve made some progress on all fronts–printed pads at Amazon, starting a podcast, collaborating with more people on future products, and starting Agenceum–but growth is intolerably slow. Perhaps my expectations are unrealistic (that wouldn’t be a surprise), so I was thinking that I should narrow my focus to just a few things and not worry about the rest until I feel good about the progress. Given that my energy reserves are limited, that means I need to pour what I’ve got into fewer glasses. Right now I have what feels like a dozen half-empty glasses. I’d like them to fill faster.
dealing with dread
I had to admit to myself that this sudden impatience with my progress was driven by something I dreaded, though I wasn’t sure what it was. Was it a fear that I was already failing? Was it the ever-increasing pressure of needing to book some revenue in the short term? Was it the feeling that I should be faster? As I grouched about these issues in The Wave, Colleen made the observation that (and I’m immensely paraphrasing, here) communication with myself had broken down. This I thought was a DAZZLING insight. It was time to have a talk to myself, and I never pass up a chance to do that :-)
So I drove to Starbucks (it’s Sunday night now) for some coffee and light ambient noise. I then busted out an index card and allowed myself to have a good whine on it. It’s a little embarrassing to share, but I am going to do it anyway trusting that you all out there don’t presume that I feel like this all the time. This first step was my attempt to give shape to the “feeling of dread”; it’s NOT a cry out for help and Kleenex®.
It took about 30 seconds to write out the first half of the card, which I did as a stream-of-consciousness exercise. What came out, I guessed, was the “who” I wasn’t communicating with while on my forced march to happiness.
Is it going to be ok? am I on the right path? Show me a sign dammit! am I really alone? Is there something wrong with me? Do I have a say in it? Am I just too scared? Too weak? Too untalented? Am I lovable by someone I can love? Will it happen, ever? Do I have to HUSTLE for love?
It’s a litany of doubt, self-consciousness, and fear of being overwhelmed by the loneliness of the march. I hadn’t expected, at the ripe old age of 42, to be making this march by myself. I had thought I’d be married by now, partnered with a kick-ass amazing woman that shared the sense of excitement of the quest.
After getting the fear down on paper where I could see it, my immune system kicked in, producing an unexpected burst of spiritual antibodies:
- It really isn’t about me.
- I am as I am
- I am responsible for only 1/2 of the connection
- I’m shooting for that rare 2%
- Who do I need on my personal Board of Directors for wise counsel?
I wasn’t sure what these phrases meant, exactly, at the time I wrote them. I did know that I felt somewhat relieved at having restated some important truths. Looking at them again in the light of day, I can see that they are a kind of absolution from guilt. I’d accepted that my current state of existence is due to the way the cards have fallen: I’ve got to work with what I’ve been dealt (who I am), recognize that winning isn’t entirely up to me (it’s due to external factors too), and that my strategy has been to pursue something pretty damn rare (the 2% at the top). Impatient as I am, I’d sure like to know WHAT that rare thing is, and WHEN I’ll find it, but I also recognize that I need some additional oversight and guidance; this is a huge admission for desiring-to-be-self-sufficient me. Not so coincidentally, I’d been at a board meeting for Float Left Labs earlier, where we were just discussing the need to expand the board. It made sense then, and I realized it made sense for me too.
creating bins to receive effort
With the doubt settled for now, I then wrote out what was most important to me; these would become the focal points of my effort to see more rapid progress. I blanked my mind and let the words come.
- COLLECTIVE – I’ve recognized that being an ego-less part of other people’s proejcts is essential to ground myself. I’m not sure why, but the efforts I make to be helpful to others in a group opens myself up in ways that somehow end up moving me forward. Perhaps it is allowing me to learn how to receive help too, and by understanding this I can see how together we can thrive. Isn’t that the point?
DESIGN AGENCY – I find it hard calling myself a “designer”, but that’s the closest label I can find that matches the set of skills I have. I’ve added “Agency” because it implies that there’s an operation behind the art, consisting of workflow, project management, marketing, sales, etc. Some of this I talk about on the Agenceum blog, but I have not done all I could. I have a LOT of material that I can pour into a design practice that is, ultimately, comprised of people that I like working with. And, I have a good idea of how I’d like to measure progress for a small agency, having worked in a few small shops in my time.
HEALTH – I’m thinking of renaming this WELL-BEING, but the general idea is that as I begin the second half of my life, I should be in good physical shape so I can enjoy it. This is something my Dad tells me from time to time, and for a man in his 80s he’s in great shape. Changing the name of this card to WELL-BEING would broaden the definition, including things like doing chores and budgeting better. In other words, treat myself right.
DAVENESS – I was surprised by this word but it popped right into my brain. It likely stems from the “I am as I am” statement I made earlier on my whining card. I’d also had the thought that Google Wave with Colleen™ had reminded me how unique everyone is, and that it can shine through even in a limited medium like text in the hands of a master writer like the Communicatrix. Even though I am not exactly sure what my most “marketable” skills are, I do know that the way I approach things resonates with a certain audience. It may be a very small audience, but it’s the one that I like…thanks for following along, dear readers! I know that the more I share what I love and do (“Daveness”), the better the opportunities that come my way. I may not be perfect, but God has imbued me with “Daveness”, and I’ve been entrusted to nurture it to full potential.
p>Next I have to create some simple means of tracking progress on all four focus areas. The most complex one is the Design Agency card; there are at least six agency roles, each with its own workflow and operational requirements. I’ll be working on that a little later today; I think the format will be different than what I’ve created before, but we’ll see.