2018 Goals Review 02: Mission-Centered Goals and Bigger Dreams

"Having the moxie to make a change" Time for my monthly review of yearly goals!. Like last month, I seem to be forgetting what my goals were, which implies that I’m not mindfully following them. That seems BAD. And as I ALSO discovered last month, it appears that my activities just happened to be aligned with the goals once I looked them up to see what they were! I don’t know if this means I’m a GENIUS, just LUCKY, or some form of IDIOT-SAVANT. Let’s dig into the dank underbelly of my goals for the second Groundhog Day Resolution Review of 2018, shall we?

Good Thing I Wrote These Goals Down…

Here are my goals again, copied from the handy reference sheet that I added to the public ACCRUAL LOG last month to help me remember. Didn’t work I guess, but at least I remembered where to find it…oh right, here it is:

  • Resolution: Make a viable GATHERING STYLE PRODUCTIVITY SYSTEM, and apply it.
  • Resolution: Focus on Mastery in Javascript Software Development as I build BIG SYSTEMS
  • Resolution: Create a public identity built on all my disparate activities, leadership in standing for the things I love, and sharing them all as my NEAT SIDE BUSINESS.
  • Resolution: Build the product mix, consolidate the store, share them widely as part of the NEAT SIDE BUSINESS ecommerce identity!
  • Resolution: Swear less! Make a swear jar! Negativity Log. Don’t be bitter or filled with rage.

Why is this so hard to remember, and how am I managing to still stay on track? I didn’t practice every resolution every day, but I did do SOMETHING in each category over the month. However, am I really making an effort toward anything bigger? Frankly, I was just doing these things anyway because this is “where my head is” at the moment. I feel like it’s giving the Moon an award for “best orbiting satellite appearing in a nighttime production”. On the other hand, maybe this is the entire point of gathering-style productivity, the alternative methodology I am trying to design in opposition to the slow-but-steady factory model of productivity that is suggested by reasonable and accomplished people all over the world. In this factory model, regular progress is broken into bite-sized doable chunks that don’t overwhelm because they are small and well-defined. They are also predictable, which helps with planning. It is very pragmatic and reassuring, and I’d say it’s very powerful. I’ve been trying to get better at this for years, because I believe it’s a process that works. The foundation of science and industry is based on hundreds of years of methodical work, peer-reviewed and tested carefully over time, to bring us to the pinnacle of achievement that bless many of us with everyday miracles.

However…THE PROCESS IS ALSO SUPER BORING and today I’m thinking that I really don’t like being rational about what I do and how I do it all the time. I’d rather apply my rationality to creating situations where big epic shit can happen, or magical sparks arc between people and ideas.

The “gathering style” productivity perhaps is a system that’s suited more to my temperament because it’s emergent (and therefore surprising and delightful). That said, I do feel the need to redo my goals so they are (1) more memorable (2) more concrete in detail and (3) not boring to me.

A Busy Month

Before I re-do my Groundhog Day Resolution Goals, let’s first review what did happen last month to provide some concrete examples to work from. And let’s do it with pictures!

PICTURES IN REVIEW

RECAP

At the beginning of the month, my cousin Ben had just left. I picked up a cold/cough that lasted for about two weeks, during which time I was very unproductive. I did make several living room improvements by framing and hanging-up some wall art, and I ate lots of yummy food. I eventually had the insight that maybe my lingering brain fog was not due to being sick, but by eating too much stuff because, OH RIGHT, I have type 2 diabetes. I switched back to low carb diet and went back to the gym and my mental focused improved by an order of magnitude just by watching what I ate and sweating a little bit every day. So now I am hooked. I also got some cool nail polish to match my fountain pens, and started painting my right hand to match because (1) it’s silly and (2) silly makes me feel good.

Toward the last half of the month, I did a big programming push and forgot about everything else, though I continued to have epiphanies regarding my personal mission. The main one was the idea that I could be a Muse of Happy Bubble Time. I put in a lot of time hanging out in the Virtual Coworking Chat Room making people feel welcome; this has really become an important part of my life as it helps me see how it is that I can be of value to people. Despite these positive feelings, I’ve been feeling unproductive because insights don’t have physical form, and I want to very much see some REAL STUFF happen in my life. This is a good place to look more deeply at my Groundhog Day Resolutions and see if I can rejigger them into something that I can rely on for the coming month.

END RECAP / BEGIN GROUNDHOG GOALS REFACTORING

I’ve been painfully aware just how ill-defined my Groundhog Day Resolutions goals are. The monthly review is great because it REMINDS me of this and steers me back onto a defined path for at least a few days. I am frustrated, though, that I am not making more solid progress toward…what was it again? I seriously forgot what they were AGAIN and just looked ’em up again.

PROCESS: REWRITE IN FORM OF DESIRED OUTCOME, EXPECTED RESULTS, MOTIVATION

Defining Desired Outcome/Expected Results/Immediate Motivation are three of my standard inquiry approaches when I’m trying to deconstruct the nature of something, and it makes sense to apply this methodology to my current goals. Here’s the rewritten version:

  • Gathering Style Productivity SystemDESIRED OUTCOME is a low-friction, anxiety-free way of life that produces high-quality goods with tangible value in a concrete, shareable form. EXPECTED RESULT is that I am producing a consistent flow of these goods, which can be exchanged with people to generate income and/or help build a community of people I care about. IMMEDIATE MOTIVATION is that I feel that I am not producing in a manner that is anxiety-free, and I believe I am capable of producing more; I have many ideas that I would love to see made real just to see what happens, and I would like to feel my value in the world is based on what I have made.

  • Mastery in Javascript / Building Big SystemsDESIRED OUTCOME having the ability to build software systems that accomplish valuable work or solve interesting human problems with uncommon elegance and insight. Having this ability and working code grants the following EXPECTED RESULTS: the ability to solve problems that no one else will (or can) solve, and also demonstrate my own value to others so I can continue to book interesting work. The IMMEDIATE MOTIVATION is I see Javascript is an ubiquitous platform now with at lot of employment opportunities that brings me money. There is also the possibility that it will help me build my own business software that will unlock/automate many revenue opportunities; I can not do this by myself right now.

  • Create a public identity that covers everything I have been doingDESIRED OUTCOME is to have a succinct and accurate way of not only communicating what I do to others, but also to establish a mission statement. EXPECTED RESULTS is that I will more easily know how to talk about my work and get others interested in it. The mission statement also helps me triage my activities as either “valuable” or “distracting” so I can not waste energy. My IMMEDIATE MOTIVATION is that I think I need to establish operational transparency so I know what I’m doing and can explain what that is to people and why it’s beneficial. The ability to express these reasons is extremely valuable, and having this NOW just feels very urgent.

  • A Neat Side Business with a Good Product Mix for the Online Store – On the surface, the DESIRED OUTCOME is to generate more revenue through the sale of good products. The EXPECTED RESULTS that I foresee are the acquisition of increased reputation for making good and interesting products, which brings both money and reputation. It also helps create connections with like-minded people, which opens up future opportunities. My IMMEDIATE MOTIVATION is that I am getting older and less employable, and I need to diversify my income in case I am unable to do other contract work. This income also funds my other activities, and I would like to increase my funding level.

  • Swear less! Be less negative – The DESIRED OUTCOME is improved state of mind and controls. My EXPECTED RESULTS is increased mindfulness, which will improve my mood, which affects the quality of my daily work and interactions with people. My IMMEDIATE MOTIVATION is I know how bad I feel when I swear angrily, and I would like to be aware of what underlying frustrations might be triggering that response.

REFACTOR AND COMBINE

I think I see two groups of goals here. The first group I’ll call MY WAY, as in “The Way of Dave”:

  • Choose Positivity over Negativity – I want to be a joyful, enthusiastic, and level-headed person; my true persona!
  • Brand Identity/Mission – my reason to be alive and connect with like-minded others; an extension of my persona!
  • Gathering Style Productivity – the hypothetical way I can be most productive; if this fits better, I can get more done (maybe!)

The second group I’ll call PRAGMATIC GOODS AND SERVICES

  • Javascript Software Development – a skill that creates tools people love to use; highly useful and valuable, brings income!
  • Neat Side Business – a curated collection of offerings that people love and buy; validation of my ideals, brings income!

Regarding how I seemed to be following my goals without actually remembering what they were: I seem to be because everything in the first group is always on my mind anyway. If you’ve been reading this blog for over a year, you’ll probably have seen this pattern. The second group are the strategic elements of being able to support the first group. Let me apply a second round of DESIRED OUTCOME/EXPECTED RESULT/IMMEDIATE MOTIVATION to these two groups:

  • THE WAY OF DAVE – My DESIRED OUTCOME is being confident and competent at enabling a certain kind of positive energy in the world that is more magical and emergent, arising from optimism and generosity of spirit. Most importantly, I need to be able to speak from practical experience having done this. My EXPECTED RESULT is that I am happy and fulfilled, doing whatever it is I’m doing that fits within that ideal of existence in the company of people who share that same desire. My IMMEDIATE MOTIVATION is…I simply want this to exist, and I am compelled to pursue it.

  • PRAGMATIC GOODS AND SERVICES – My DESIRED OUTCOME is having value I can barter with other people so I can live well without compromising my ideals. The EXPECTED RESULTS are working fewer hours because I have high-quality value goods/services that also work for me, breaking the limiting trade your time in exchange for money formula that keeps me from pursuing independent speculative projects that are NOT BORING. My IMMEDIATE MOTIVATION is that these are the “low hanging fruit” that I have already, and polishing them up is a much shorter path-to-money than developing entirely new skill sets.

I think that looks pretty good, I feel the need to add a third group that will help me assess progress in a larger sense. I’ll have to add the ACTION inquiry to this group analysis to make it complete (aside: the ACTION-DESIRE-EXPECTATION-MOTIVATION inquiry group is part of my so-called “scientific creative method” of assessing projects, and I should write a good article on that if there is interest):

  • SPREAD THE JOY – The ACTION is sharing what I am exploring, learning, building, and sharing. My DESIRED OUTCOME is that I save people some time and promote what I think are great, because this is constructive and wonderful and I believe that casting light into the shadows of uncertainty and growing the pie rather than dividing it is the far-preferable way to live; wouldn’t it be great if a bunch of us banded together to do this? The EXPECTED RESULT is improved productivity because we believe in our own ability to achieve and dream, and that SOMEONE OUT THERE is showing how she is doing it and sharing the messy process of it. My IMMEDIATE MOTIVATION is that of the WAY OF DAVE group: I simply want this to happen so much that I could cry.

More Memorable Groundhog Day Resolution Goals

Let’s make it official: here’s my new strategic goals for 2018, which I guess have always been there since the beginning; I only am able to express them better after 10 years of trying to define them:

  • The Mission: Clarifying my mission and related methodology. Has been under constant development and refinement for the past 15 years.
  • Pragmatic Goods and Services: Supporting the mission with operating cash so I can afford to do this. Creating tools and materials that can be provide to people who are on a similar mission. Acquiring high-value skills to support the practical aspects of running a business enterprise that supports the mission.
  • Sharing the Joy: Sharing everything. Connecting with like-minded people. Putting the signal out there that me and my friends are trying to practice a certain outlook on life that helps us get to where we want to go. To create a communications hub for other conscientious, kind, competent, self-empowered and generous people who are pursuing their own dream and also want to share the joy with others.

This is a good time to now look at my MARCH ACCRUAL LOG to see what I actually did. Hmm, let’s see…

"MARCH ACCRUAL LOG" I can categorize every one of these items into one of the three new groups. What is missing perhaps are specific, tangible projects with well-defined steps and outcomes that can—

*

I AM ALREADY BORED DAMMIT. As I was saying earlier, this approach is very rational and proven effective. It’s one of the ideal methodologies that works PERFECTLY FINE for the many intelligent disciplined folks out there. HUGE RESPECT for people who can do that and find the process fulfilling. I just think that I’m not one of those people who can do it all the time without going crazy. I am not saying they are dumb. I am not saying that I am dumb either. I am hypothesizing that I am different in my natural tendencies and that fighting myself to conform to the common wisdom (as effective that it is) is not doing me any favors. That’s why I’m trying to come up with this gathering style productivity in the first place, to present a well-reasoned and effective ALTERNATIVE that works for people who share my traits.

This calls for an expansion of my “gathering style productivity** methodology. If I want to make purposefully progress on the difficult projects but don’t want to be locked-in to a boring process, what is the process of doing so? Drawing from my past experience, what seems to work is following the inquiry-based happy bubble time methodology:

  • Instead of telling myself “I have to do A,B,C to achieve result X”, I say, “Result X would be cool! I wonder if there is an A that points me to Result X? Oh, there are B and C and F and Q and Z and hm, how can I find an answer to any one of these and remember them?”
  • Instead of telling myself “Task A takes 100 hours and many substeps to do. The prudent approach is to break the project up over a week and work 4 hours a day on it between the times of 9AM and 5PM”, I’ll say “Ok I know Result X and Task A are on the same path. Let me poke A (or B or Q) and see what I can learn from it, and see how long it takes to get to some tangible answer”
  • Instead of worrying that an unstructured approach will not produce good results, trust that I know what I’m doing and something will emerge that may not be the result I originally envisioned, but it will still be awesome.
  • Instead of concerning myself with performance metrics, efficiency, and the appearance of competency as the hallmarks of my productive excellence, I will strive to produce works of exceptional quality with full transparency of the process that produced it.

Does that sound reasonable? If it seems insane, then you might want to consider how similar it is to the realities of business. It makes sense to do a more step-by-step approach IF your goal is to reproduce the process later for publication in a journal, or if you are reproducing the results of someone else’s work because predictability is part of the critical path of your strategy. However, if you are trying to make something new where there are no clear patterns, I suspect it’s far better to recognize that uncertainty is the reality and your job is to convert uncertainty to certainty and be ready to capitalize on surprises.

So let me define the new methodology as follows:

  • Pick a desired result I’d like to have!
  • Apply “inquiry-based happy bubble time” (let’s call this IQ-HBT) to the result to try to get to it, and enjoy the process!
  • IMPORTANT MINDFUL STEP: keep track of what I did so I can see the journey evolving, and draw insight from hindsight.
  • IMPORTANT MINDFUL STEP: try to convert uncertainty to certainty during IQ-HBT and log it as the takeaway.
  • IMPORTANT MINDFUL STEP: maintain a modicum of continuity between related IQ-HBT sessions and log it.
  • Allow myself to change my mind or direction AFTER I’ve applied any amount of IQ-HBT to the result.

Because I am naturally lazy, I am gratified to see that I already have the logging tool in the form of the accrual log spreadsheet.

What I think will be challenging is pushing through the frustrating and boring parts of the process, but this can be alleviated a bit by venting my frustration and remembering that other people are going through the same thing; the virtual coworking chat room is the place that supports me when I am feeling low. We have a fantastic group of people there who GET IT and are ready to provide a supportive CHEER or helpful bit of experience.

The Next Month

I’m feeling pretty good. Let me pick a few “desired outcomes” for the coming month, that I may or may not get to. All that is important is I am logging those uncertainties converted to certainties produced in my attempts to achieve results, and it’s really OK if I drop them.

  • Patreon Video! I now know what my mission is and can describe it!
  • Javascript Web App prep for public release! There are many interesting ideas in it that I’d like to share!
  • Make a MILLION DOLLARS in 5 years! Because that would be awesome and open up all kinds of mission possibilities!

That latter result is inspired by a story my friend @Peppercorn told about his grandfather having lived a successful life of making prudent decisions, but dying ultimately unsatisfied though he had made a lot of money. This reminded me of the episode Tapestry in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Picard has the opportunity to go back in time and change a rash action he had taken as a youth, and discovers that the “wise decision” he had made actually undermines his development as a Starfleet captain. I want to dream bigger. I’ve chosen smaller personal steps for a long time, and they have been very important, but I think my personal growth can be accelerated by being a bit more reckless.

Maybe. We’ll see how the next month goes. I reserve the right to change my mind but keep the million bucks :-) Thanks for reading, and have a great month!

"Groundhog by Pearson Scott Foreman" Here’s this year’s calendar:

DATE HOLIDAY DESCRIPTION
MON 1/1 New Year’s Day Start thinking about resolutions
FRI 2/2 Groundhog Day Make your resolutions. Assemble your peer group.
SAT 3/3 March 3 Review w/ group.
WED 4/4 April 4 Review w/ group.
SAT 5/5 Cinco de Mayo Review w/ group. Think celebratory, spring-like thoughts!
WED 6/6 June 6 Mid-Year Review w/ group. Optional break for summer.
SAT 7/7 Tanabata Star Festival Private Review. Make Wishes. Rededicate.
WED 8/8 Chinese Father’s Day Private Review. Plan for future completion.
SUN 9/9 September 9 Review w/ group. Three months left.
WED 10/10 October 10 Review w/ group. Two months left.
SUN 11/11 Veteran’s Day Review w/ group. A Day to be Grateful.
WED 12/12 December 12 End-of-year Review. Break for Holiday Madness.



About this Article Series

For my 2018 Groundhog Day Resolutions, I'm challenging myself to develop "gathering-style productivity" as I pursue the year's goals. You'll find the related posts on the 2018 Groundhog Day Resolutions page.

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I believe we all benefit when we respectfully share our perspectives on common experiences. My house rules are "please be respectful of divergent views" and "enjoy the flow of ideas!"

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