Groundhog Day Resolutions 10/10/2012: Connecting with Connection

Groundhog Day Resolutions 10/10/2012: Connecting with Connection

SUMMARY: In this month’s report on making my yearly resolutions come to fruition, I note how progress has been uneven and unsatisfying. A random sound bite from Brene Brown’s TEDx talk on “vulnerability” and an amazingly restorative visit with friends in Maine helps clarify what I might be missing.

Looking Back

The theme of last month was satisfaction. My working theory was that I was not satisfied, and that I needed to lay a foundation of “potato salad” projects (described in last month’s update). These are projects that I don’t find particularly exciting but deliver a tangible benefit; since they are already part of my recipe book, they are also easy to do. The hard part, though, is starting them because they’re kind of bland.

My specific targets for Potato Salad from last month, which are all related to increasing my income:

  • Emergent Task Planner, Bound Edition – This is a bound journal version of the Emergent Task Planner, currently being spec’d by my printer. I need to check up on this. I have a design and a size. Just need to get it costed and push it out.
  • Form Renaming and Instruction Sheets – I have a lot of productivity forms. They started out as personal experiments that I later made available for download. The next stage, I think, is to write some decent instructions and perhaps name them more engagingly with an eye toward the commercial marketplace.
  • What I Do Description and Rate Sheet – I haven’t been taking on many design or interactive clients this past year so I could concentrate on the becoming a stationery designer shift. However, I haven’t completely stopped offering the service, and I need to update the description of what I do for hire under what conditions.
  • Form Variations Digital Sales – There are many custom variations of the productivity forms I could make for very specific uses. I should be able to knock one off in an hour, and offer them for sale as a digital download for a small fee. I’ve tested it with my non-advertised digital downloads, so it seems like it would work. However, I haven’t been very organized about setting up a production cycle for this. Probably because I’m not all that excited about it.

I didn’t make any significant progress on these tasks, so my dissatisfaction remains high. However, the reason I didn’t make progress on these tasks was because I wasn’t thinking about them. They are in my Trello board, but there was a deeper issue that came to light in the last couple of weeks. That issue is connection, between myself and other people with compatible desires and aspirations, on a continuous basis.

Making The Connection

Several weeks ago I happened to catch an interview fragment with Brene Brown about shame, guilt, and vulnerability as I was waking up to NPR. Brown’s 2010 talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is about her journey as a social researcher who hated the idea of being vulnerable, so she used quantitative measurement as the basis how she lived her life. In the talk, she describes how the chain of research leads right back to vulnerability as the fundamental element to living a “whole-hearted” life, living “deep in a deep sense worthiness”, being courageous in being imperfect, being compassionate toward themselves first so they could act in kind to others, and being authentic so they could truly connect with others.

I have stumbled upon some of these keys before, but the idea that vulnerability is the path to connection and a presumably satisfying life was an unexpected twist. Thinking about it, though, I probably have been practicing the courage to be imperfect on this blog by sharing my thoughts. The reason I do it is because I am “passing it forward”; many people in my life that have helped me by sharing their knowledge when it was not advantageous to them. For example, a high school senior helping a freshman to understand computer programming, crossing social strata. Or having a special technique or source shared with me, though I am technically a competitor. And so I do the same, sharing with the notion that someone out there in the Googleverse may be nudged in the direction they needed to be. It doesn’t feel like courage, though. For the kind of world I want to live in, sharing is essential.

But still, I am dissatisfied. There are things I want to make. I want to be free to do the things I want. However, being free to pursue them, as I have been for the past year, hasn’t turned out the way I wanted. Even when I beat the procrastination back for a week and get a ton of stuff done, the dissatisfaction remains.

Connecting with Old Friends

Last week I took a trip to Maine to visit my friend Brad and his family, not realizing that this would be the most important trip of the year. Like me, Brad works from home and desires freedom from the daily grind of working for other people. He has put a lot of effort into creating an online commerce platform to leverage his skills as an artist by selling stock illustration, learning a lot about shopping carts and search engine optimization in the process.

Over several days, we discussed how we were frustrated, dissatisfied, and upset with ourselves. We knew we wanted to create that freedom, but we found the effort incredibly draining. We also found that even when we knew that those tasks would bring us closer to the financial freedom we wanted, we still weren’t motivated enough to sit our asses down and do it. Uncertainty of what to do had something to do with it…building an e-commerce empire is something I’ve never done before, and Brad was facing challenges with implementing his shopping cart due to his lack of technical background.

After unloading all this stuff, we shared what we DID know. Brad shared his extensive knowledge of search engine ranking and web page design that helped drive purchases. I shared my knowledge of web servers and tools. We watched the Brene Brown videos, shared books and web pages that we had found useful, checked out other websites, and offered our take on what a solution might be. We also ate Pringles and drank Moxie, had pizza and beer, joked around with his kids, shared good things and bad things at the dinner table for the daily affirmation, and generally got caught up.

Toward the end of the visit, we noted that we were both feeling very inspired and energized, and this gave us the strength to ask some hard questions of ourselves:

  • Perhaps we were not really facing up to our challenges like we should. If we were the people we wanted to be, we would be doing it. Maybe we were not who we wanted to be yet, and it was just going to take commitment and work. There was no longer any reason to be uncertain, so it was time to man-up and do something about it. The visit had established that very firmly.
  • To maintain our momentum—and because as friends we feel we should be better about maintaining contact with each other—we felt it was important to maintain regular contact. I shared my experiences reconnecting with my cousin Ben, a thoughtful and talented person, and how this had reawakened the desire to start building up my skills again in interactive 3D. Could we keep the energy going by putting some communication tools in place?
  • I noted that, if I really thought about it, I was hesitant to really step out on the “world arena”; we’d watched Brene Brown’s 2012 TED presentation which talked about this a bit. For all my claims of being courageous enough to share my thoughts, I was still only sharing what I was comfortable sharing. While it is more than other people might want to share themselves, I was still in my comfort zone because of doubts I had about myself and how I would be perceived. AHA. Hello, vulnerability!

So that’s where it is now. I’ll post a followup article that describes the tools and books we mentioned if there is interest.

THE TAKEAWAY: Connectedness creates energy and opens opportunities. And to practice an authentic connectedness, one has to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable also is required in risk taking; while one can try to armor-up as much as possible before venturing out there in the world, ultimately it’s not about withstanding the hits. It’s about accepting that it’s going to happen and not feeling unworthy about it. A strong and genuine connectedness with the right people makes us stronger…details to follow :)

This Month

This month’s goals: maintain focus on…

  • New Productivity Tool Page – Make it easier to find stuff, download forms, and make the “for sale” stuff more visible.
  • Show More Dave with Less Words – Brad commented that my website shows the serious side of Dave. While some of my less serious thoughts comes out if you read the posts, it’s hard to find things like my food and gear obsessions that are also fun. The idea is to make the front page more scan-friendly, and also to unearth some primo content from earlier years.
  • Maintain Active Connection with the Like-Minded – Frequency and quality of communication with my cohorts is a really important aspect of my life. I’ve tried to muscle on through on willpower and principle alone, and this works for about two weeks before my batteries are completely drained. In the recovery period afterwards, my efficiency and sense of project continuity suffers. It feels like one step forward, one step back. So this month I’m going to put more energy into like-minded people who are striving, like me, to put some oomph into their work-life balance.

As for specific projects, they remain the same as before:

  • Index Card Docks!
  • Bound ETP Journal!
  • 3D Modelling and Programming!
  • Whatever else comes my way!

Groundhog Day Resolution Posts for 2012

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