Resolution Review #10: Finding Certainty

"Groundhog by Pearson Scott Foreman" Happy Holidays! Today is the last monthly review for 2015 as part of my Groundhog Day Resolutions. I conclude that this has actually been a successful year, thanks to two huge insights about accepting my work as the job and recognizing the need for intense, creative connections. I think these are the missing pieces, and with the confidence that comes from having them I know what I need to do next year.

Recap from Last Month

Last month, I was greatly inspired by The Art of Asking, which helped me realize that an “economy of sharing and caring” probably does exist. Amanda Palmer seems to have cracked that puzzle for herself; perhaps it’s something I can do too! So I came up with an “amended business model” based on my earlier 2015 plan; here it is again with some additional explanation:

  1. Pursue Excellence – Not settling for the minimum, aspiring to create better work!
  2. Spinning uncertainty into certainty – Learning to embrace uncertainty as part of the creative process, always yielding actionable insights!
  3. Creating tangible results every day – Talk is cheap. Making is the only way to pursue points 1 and 2!
  4. Maximizing sharing through giving and receiving – What you make and give grants a measure of power! However, it’s openly receiving in kind that builds lasting connections!
  5. Sharing as much as possible with as many as possible – The more sharing there is, the greater the group benefit. It’s like cashflow!

In addition to the above insights, I also noted that I still had lingering anxieties and concerns about the worth of what I was doing.

Stumbling into “Doing it Right”

This month has been host to several insights that sprang from participation in two computer game-related communities: the Wildstar MMORPG community and the Southern NH GameDev Meetup group. Computer games have been very much part of my life right up to my mid-30s, when I quit the video game industry. After a stint working as a freelance interactive designer, I started blogging and got onto this current track of…well, in hindsight I’d call it a journal of my own personal pursuit of happiness. I’ve been stumbling along, trying various approaches to the “work/balance, career vs. calling vs. mission vs. vocation, what am I/what do I want to be” questions that seem to bedevil my every waking moment. For the past few years, I’ve been trying to “toughen-up” on the planning and be more deliberate in my actions. I can clearly see the chain of cause-and-effect actions that I could be undertaking, but a lack of gumption and intrinsic interest in said actions have robbed me of forward momentum. I found this continuing lack of motivation worrisome. What was I doing wrong?

Or…maybe I’m doing things right? I was talking to a friend in the Wildstar community over Skype chat about some of the problems I was facing as we talked about our shared desires to do interesting work. In a moment of mental exhaustion I blurted out this self-assessment:

[11:33:05 PM] Dave Seah: It probably is just that I enjoy exploring process more than creating a work.  
[11:33:25 PM] Dave Seah: Though my ego would like to be known for having produced a great work.  
[11:34:03 PM] Dave Seah: And I also know that producing any kind of valuable work at all is a key to financial independence, which means it is the key to indulgent laziness.

I was struck by the blunt personal true of these statements, my aspirations laid bare without a scrap of high-minded rhetoric to cover its base self-centeredness. It feels UGLY, but at the same time the truth resonates with me. Self-centeredness is not a bad thing by itself, and accepting it gives me confidence that I know what will give me satisfaction in the long run. If I project that confidence onto what I am doing about it, it’s possible that the odd mix of exploration, unpredictable creativity, and paid work actually is my job. After all, I have been doing it for 10 years. While I haven’t become a millionaire, I haven’t starved either. Of course there is room for improvement, and I also still want to share and be around other positive-minded people, but the basic approach may be exactly what I need to be doing. Up to now, I’ve assumed that there must be something I’m missing or screwing up. Is it possible that this worry is just an energy drain? I am starting to think it is!

So a few weeks ago, I decided that I knew what I was doing and would proceed based on those assumptions. I’m slowly learning to trust myself more fully. I passed this insight along to one of my cousins for some feedback, and he commented that it sounded very similar to the insight about being a developer; I had decided that when I write code, trying to write it to other people’s expectations of speed was just making me miserable. I was cutting out the activities I enjoy about coding, such as documentation and design, to try to speed up delivery times. When I decided that this was actually pretty dumb despite the benefits of getting code out sooner, it created delays later on and made me unhappy. The only “benefit” delivered was the false sense that something was getting finished quickly. So yes, the very concept of deciding that the way I tend to work is the way it should be has similar repercussions in that I embrace my own approach to daily work. Again, it’s filled with unpredictable rabbit holes of exploration, surprise moments of creativity, with only a fraction of the time going to billable work. That’s just the way it works for me. If after 10 years of working this way I haven’t see any huge drawbacks, why not keep going? I have tried a LOT of different approaches over the years in an attempt to raise productivity in the long term. Why not just accept it? Why fight my very nature, if it’s still productive and producing interesting work?

Making Intense Connections

Making the connection with the Wildstar community and local game developers has reminded me that I really connect with people who work to create a community that rewards an intensity of interest. The Wildstar people are generally a lot younger than I, but cooperate with each other to populate a world with characters and stories of their own making. That’s super-cool. The game development people, who span a range of ages from their 20s through 50s, share a similar intense interest in making games. It’s great to be among people like this, and I think it’s what I have been missing for a long time. The last time I was among such energy, I think, was probably in high school in my three-person computer club.

I like intense, creative people. Intensity in this case means that their attention is consumed by what they are passionate about, and they love to share what they think about it. Creativity in this case is the compulsion to make something based on their passion. I like hearing stories about how people got to be the way they are now, followed by stories about where they’d like to go next. The act of creation, for me, is motivated by the need to make tools for overcoming challenges that bar us from achieving goals. I like to see people move toward their dreams, and I like to outfit them with the gear that they need to get to that next world. Or perhaps BUILD that world, as it is with game developers. I think the common desire is to create worlds that we can inhabit, whether it’s in a video game or the future.

Closing out the Year

Let’s see what my goals were from the beginning of the year:

  • Breaking Dependency on Time-based Metrics – the insight about “I’m doing the job I need to be, so stop worrying about whether I’m doing it right” seems to be the final blow against this, when I realized I was preoccupied with how long it was taking me to do things. I
  • Minimization of Energy Sapping Possessions and Responsibilities – I’ve done quite a lot to reduce possessions and responsibilities this year.
  • Full-time Stationery Business by End of Year – This I really dropped the ball on, due to preoccupation with time and external projects. 2016 will be the year for that because I finally am starting to believe I’m doing things the right way for me.
  • Finding the Will to Create and Share – Getting there!
  • Health and Strength – I’ll be 48 soon. Yeesh. I have a regular doctor now and am getting labs done to get tuned up. I had significant dental work done. I didn’t get back to the gym or lose weight, but that can be 2016’s goal.

I feel that I am on the right track. 2016 will be the year that I pursue my own version of the economy of sharing, as inspired by Amanda Palmer and my intense circle of nerdly friends and acquaintances. Specifically, I’m seeing the need to write a lot more short conversational posts on the blog as a way of sharing me and finding those intense connections with you. I think that will be a great start. I already bought my first hat in anticipation of this! But more on that later!

Thanks for following another year of Groundhog Day Resolutions! We’ll resume again next February 2nd. Enjoy the holidays!