Groundhog Day Resolution Review 6/6/2012

Groundhog Day Resolution Review 6/6/2012

Hurray! Time for another Groundhog Day Resolutions review! The key themes this month are:

  • keep long-term outlook on stationery business
  • balancing client work and personal work
  • managing frustration with slow progress on difficult multi-stage projects
  • maintaining a positive attitude

Here goes!

Insights of the Month

Since last month’s late review, there hasn’t been much more action to report. The new 50-sheet pad is now online at Amazon (yay), and I’m positioning it as a “starter pack”. I’ve also just placed a renewal order for the sticky pads, which have sold slowly but are almost gone, so I placed a re-order. This Friday, I’m going to talk to my printer about maintaining long-term production and maintaining a periodic invoice, which is kind of exciting! We’ve hit the point of continuous production of the pads and related projects! This feels like a milestone worth celebrating.

For the first time, the production of pads is being paid for out of the same bank account that Amazon is linked to, creating a cycle of income and expense. It’s satisfying to watch the money accrue every two weeks, knowing that there is slightly more money coming in than is being spent: PROFIT! While it’s not nearly enough money to live on—I guesstimate it will take another 8 products to get to that point over the next 2 years away—the basic idea seems to be WORKING. Such a simple idea, and yet it took me such a long time to put it into practice. I may look into Kickstarter to take on a larger project. For example, bound A5 journals.

For real income, I’ve been blessed with multiple projects for the next few months through long-term client relationships. While this is a wonderful thing when it comes to paying the bills, it means there’s less time to spend exploring other personal projects. Having the energy to explore possibilities that might not go anywhere is not a waste of time, as I once thought, but is essential to the weird artistic-yet-productive process I call Happy Bubble Time. Of late, I have NOT had this energy or inclination to make bubbles, because my mind has been weighed down by the magnitude of some of these projects, and a continuing frustration with my ability to quickly learn new skills and master them comprehensively. For example, making an iPhone or Android app would be nice, as would be able to pull together a nice Web app for the various Printable CEO forms. I know, I know…why not collaborate? The truth of it is that I don’t have the time for it, and without my attention it seems that collaborations are doomed to fizzle out on the backburner. I think I really need to be able to afford to hire a team, when I’m ready, so I can direct the actions of the development team.

With these thoughts I’ve also found leaning toward self-isolation, adopting hermit-like behaviors to conserve what energy I have. I’ve avoided movies and social events so I can stay at home and muster what energies I have. But isolation, I know, is at best a short-term strategy. I need external stimulation to give me that boost of energizing inspiration! I need to get in touch with people like me who are seeking answers on their own quest toward excellence. Back in 2005 or so, I was in a similar place and formed a “New Media Group” to try and connect with other interactive designers; I may need to this again, so I can have those stimulating conversations. The funny thing about the New Media Group was that I didn’t find anyone who really into the tech stuff, but they provided inspiration in different ways. This time around, I might need to target programmers specifically and host “making meetings”. I feel the crying urge for it. I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my potential and opportunity by sitting on my ass clicking stuff on a screen. I want to be learning and creating new things…but I’ve lost the mojo.

So yes…it’s 2005 all over again. That’s also the year that I started blogging, posting every day and sometimes more. I haven’t done that for at least two years. I think it’s time to get back to expressing my interests in concrete ways, to make this the center of what I do. As I always say, you need to put out what you want to receive in turn. My friend Alen once called this the Karmic Boomerang.

Practical Assessment

With my monthly woolgathering out of the way, let’s take a more pragmatic look at what is happening, and what needs to happen:

  1. The product development / production / selling machine is functioning as designed, and requires minimal input to keep running. HUZZAH!
  2. I have enough client work to support myself for the next few months. EXCELSIOR!
  3. I’m not having creative conversations, and I need to get back to having them. That means making an effort to meet people, seek collaboration opportunities, and build some cool things in a team environment.

My hypothesis:

  • I need to have the inspirational energy that comes from the creative conversations to blast myself out of this low-energy funk.
  • I need that energy to maintain momentum on the tedious incremental work of product creation.
  • I need to make sure that I’m engaging in Happy Bubble Time to chip away at the immense cloud of projects and any prerequisite learning.

What I’m Doing

To launch the Karmic Boomerang, I think it will help to have a website that can convincingly express what I’m about. To this end, I’ve been applying a little Happy Bubble Time (HBT) toward revamping my website infrastructure. I’m on WordPress, using a variation of the venerable TwentyTen theme. It’s been customized extensively under the surface, and I find it a little cumbersome. I’d like to introduce some new features and consolidate the sub-blogs under the same theme for visual consistency. I’m still not quite sure what the website is supposed to SAY exactly, but at least I’m putting my mind toward CSS/HTML to make a clean start. Along the way, I’m revisiting my design process and sharpening my web development skills, which will come in handy for future projects. In terms of content strategy, I’m still somewhat at a loss, but since the new under-construction theme is “live” thanks to the Theme Test Drive plugin, I see it every day and am motivated to think about what to change. Everyone else is seeing the current theme; you can see the hidden one by visiting if you’re curious. Looks similar, but simplified code.

I also bought a ticket to WordCamp Boston, a WordPress-focused event that’s happening July 14-15. I’m not sure what I’ll get out of this conference, but it’s good to get out of the house and I’m sure I’ll encounter good people and good ideas :)

I’ve been a bit better at maintaining realistic expectations, which helps overcome the paralyzing negative thoughts that accompany uncertain reward. When making anything of quality, I tell myself, it helps to remember that there’s a 1000:1 ratio of “work time” to “experience time”. In other words, making a 1 minute experience super-awesome requires at least 1000 minutes of work, and oftentimes more. If my epic act also requires that I create or learn fro scratch, there’s all that additional time added on top of it. It’s incredibly daunting to face, but one must face it or forever be doomed to being an off-the-rack kind of person, constrained by other people’s tools. It’s a frustrating process too, but since we tend to not challenge ourselves without coaxing, it’s easy to forget. I remember how difficult it was to learn my first computer language. I was 11 or 12, and many of the core concepts I take for granted today were complete gibberish to me until I learned the hard way how they worked. It took several years to get to the point where I could make computers do what I wanted at an arcane level. So I must keep heart, and keep moving, learning continuously.

Next Steps

It’s about maintaining the energy to create new products. It’s also about promoting the existing products through better product portals on the website, and producing more user-friendly documentation.

The website is, I believe, the focal point: creating opportunities for energy-producing conversation, and reorganizing existing content so it reflects my core creative mission.

Less certain is how to maintain pacing and continuity between all these different projects. I have a rough idea for a software approach based on ADHD-like fragmentation of attention, but implementing it is not in the cards any time soon. The next best thing is to not worry about it too much, and just keep working on the projects as they come to my attention for 15 minutes at a time.

Groundhog Day Resolution Posts for 2012

Here are other posts about Groundhog Day Resolutions for the 2012 season.


  1. Sweet William 12 years ago

    but at least I’m putting my mind toward CSS/HTML to make a clean start

    Do have a serious look at using XML+XLST to generate your HTML (in the browser, on the fly).

    I looked at XML in ’96 and said “nice, but what can you do with it?”. These days every browser* supports XML/XLST which massively simplifies getting consistent look and feel. There is now good documentation and lots of examples of good practice. eg A List Apart


    * A decade on, Safari still refuses to support external entities, even for relative and root relative URLs. This leaves the other 99% of base XML working.

  2. Author
    Dave Seah 12 years ago

    Browser-side XML+XSLT? This is news to me! Looking into it.

  3. Author
    Dave Seah 12 years ago

    I just took a quick peek at it, and my impression is that I still need to generate an XML source file to be transformed in the first place. The cool thing about the XSLT part seems to be the ability to pattern match and render in a different order than the data, which is pretty neat. But I don’t think it saves you from having to develop solid HTML and CSS structure first, and so I’m not sure what the value really is as far as making a website. If anything, it adds an additional abstraction layer in XML, which is a formatting style I really dislike because it’s tough to display in an editor cleanly compared to languages I’m used to (C-style syntax or structured block data).

    That’s just my initial impression though…I’ll keep an eye on this and see what comes up. Maybe it’s good for handling AJAX data or something, and doing the transforms on the fly into simple HTML.

  4. Sweet William 12 years ago

    But I don’t think it saves you from having to develop solid HTML and CSS structure first, and so I’m not sure what the value really is as far as making a website.

    Agree that you need to have your HTML and CSS frameworks sorted out first.

    I find that using XML/XLST has three main advantages over raw HTML:

    a) My data and presentation are separated. I can reuse the same XLST for different (but same XML format) data. I tend to use xsl:include a lot to structure the HTML, in the same way you do with CSS. And for the same reasons.

    b) My data is much simpler. It’s data, not markup. And with xsl:for, xsl:if and xpath to select which data is processed and in what context, I can keep separate data separate. You can also use shorthand (child node, attributes or a separate entity set) for cross references. Helps a lot when I’m pulling from several database queries.

    c) I can select from and represent the same dataset in many different ways by changing the XSLT.

    As I have the luxury of not supporting Safari, most of my XML contains only a few elements – an XSLT reference and one or more external entities for data.

    For a public website you need to combine the files before serving the http get request or you alienate the Safari users.

    • Sweet William 12 years ago

      Sorry, complete and utter brain fade on my behalf Mozilla not Safari (which had an XEE exploit)

      See Mozilla Bug 69799 – External entities are not included in XML document

  5. Avrum 12 years ago

    ” I feel the crying urge for it. I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my potential and opportunity by sitting on my ass clicking stuff on a screen.”

    Gulp. My daily fear. The older I get, the harder it is to pull people together (and time, energy, etc) to work on creative things (in my case, music). S. Covey’s cautionary note rings in my head:

    “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster”