2018 Goals Review 04: The Gift of Gifting

Being Confident and Happy...like this Llama! Guess what??? It’s time for my fourth monthly review of my Groundhog Day Resolutions goals for 2018! I do this once every month to see how I’m doing on them, and as usual I seem to have forgotten to do the specific tasks I’ve set for myself. I seem to naturally gravitate toward finding the meaning behind the tasks more than doing the tasks themselves. I’ve had some good insights this month and I seem to be getting my groove back, as the llama in the photo above (from a nearby restaurant that uses them for identifying what orders go to what table). But first, let’s review progress!

The State of 2018 GHDR Goals

Recapping the year to this point in time: I’ve been refining my high level strategic goals with each GHDR review. Last month I expressed them as a combination of mission, offerings, and sharing:

  • Mission – make a Nice Community Platform
  • Goods & Services – stationery, blog, other media
  • Sharing – whatever brings me and others the feeling of joy

These three things seemed to cover the majority of my aspirations, and are closely tied to activities that I seem to enjoy for their own sake. Finding something of value that one ALREADY does naturally seems like a good basis for work, but my concrete project goals tend to get stuck. Last month I utterly failed to get the following done:

  • Make a Patreon video about the mission
  • Prep a web app for public release
  • Scheme ways to make a million dollars in 5 years

None of these projects came to pass even a little bit, but it had been a busy month. I spent most of last month traveling in Taiwan, then recovering from the trip as I ramped-up again on the work I’d left behind. I also have a new housemate who will be staying with me for a few months, and the fleeting New England Spring has produced some incredibly nice days.

While I don’t feel too bad about my lack of progress, I recognize it seems to be a consistent lack. I have had the Patreon video on my list for probably six months. I’ve also been stressed about ongoing personal challenges, but with the conclusion of the Taiwan trip I have gained considerable confidence in getting around by myself, which has made me feel much more empowered and less incompetent. which has kept my energy levels down until maybe two weeks ago. I also came to the conclusion that I was overextending myself by worrying about maintaining progress on too many simultaneous goals; I have had to admit to myself that my ability to execute is rather limited at this time. So, I’ve reduced my expectations of myself yet again, suppressing feelings of inadequacy and choosing to focus on getting at least a couple hours of billable work done every day. Getting the billable work done is a priority now, so I can rebuild my cash reserves. I’ve also chosen to limit blogging and video streaming to once a week on Monday, and that has helped me make space for doing other things during the week.

It pains me to think how less productive I am, given all the things that I think I could be doing if I were more capable and certain than I am now, but the reduced workload has allowed me to restart my engine and develop momentum. At the moment I am feeling pretty positive about my increasing output and also my increasing comfort with myself. These are both nice wins!

Major Insights for the Month

Adding to my positive mood are three personal insights and one external push that has given me clarity about the WAY I can be doing things.

The first insight comes from remembering that making things DRIVES AWAY bad feelings and makes me feel more empowered. This is a lesson I sometimes forget, and this is a good time to bring this thought pattern back in rotation. I have a tendency to think that only LARGE achievements are worth doing, but it’s also the very small acts of making that are the manifestation of a positive maker mindset. Whenever I can make and then share something, no matter how tiny, I feel better about myself. So let me keep doing that!

The second insight is that thoughtful gift giving brings joy to everyone involved. I was reminded of this when I was showing a friend a mysterious package kit I’d received in the mail. I talked about similar things I had done for friends as surprise “experience gifts”. If there’s anything I am motivated to do, it’s designing something to elicit a delightful response they may not be expecting. I love the process of drawing on evocative props and storytelling to make an experience that triggers one’s imagination. So why not make this urge one of the action metrics that guide the work I do with my strategic goals? I have been thinking of the goals more as chores and less as gifts. Making gifts is the elevated, more considerate and polished way of sharing. That not only is more exciting, but also much more marketable.

The third insight is a result of having a housemate again. The unexpected side-effect of having someone living in my guestroom is that I’ve been exposed to someone else’s daily schedule, and this has provided me with a external reference for how someone paces their work-life balance. It’s a funny thing, but since I’ve been single all my life and haven’t shared living space with anyone since one year from 1998-1999. I’d forgotten how nice it is to feel a loose sense of shared purpose, such as maintaining a clean kitchen by taking care of my dishes immediately so the other cohabitant can also prepare their meals, and vice versa. Recently he also cleaned the bathroom walls everywhere he could reach, and the next day I took care of the parts I could reach. Result: shared effort creates shared reward of cleaner bathroom. I also have been watching him start a new gym exercise habit, and this reminds me that just being around other people who are doing things for themselves is quietly inspiring. It’s funny how such small shallow interactions have helped me feel more grounded.

The external insight came from a comment on a recent blogpost; Eurobubba write the followin:

Don’t take this the wrong way, but reading this post, I get the impression that your years-long quest has much less to do with productivity than with capturing and holding on to a mood… and that managing your moods is not actually something you have an especially good handle on.

I choose not to “take it the wrong way” and considered my reaction. In my reply, I wrote that I didn’t think of it as “holding on to a mood” as much as it is “following the mood to see where it leads”. However, the phrase managing my moods (and possibly being terrible at it) caught my imagination. As I thought about this, it occurred to me that I wasn’t upset about the comment because I know exactly what I’m doing though I am also comfortable what will happen as a result. Part of the exciting of doing things is seeing what happens; I like to GUESS what the results might be, but I’m also excited when the results are NOT to my expectations. That means there is something that I can try to understand so my next prediction is more accurate. This is something I just like to do. Anyway, “managing my mood” might just making that process more of the deciding factor than just letting moods happen to me. Letting emotion guide my thinking process has been a staple in my personal development toolkit for years, but perhaps it’s time to switch things up by focusing more on the solutions than the symptoms in my writing. While I do think there is a value in acknowledging that I have doubts and areas of ignorance so people can identify with what I’m talking about, perhaps this is not tremendously useful to the vast majority of people who stumble upon my work. By shifting the tone of my media creation from “questioning” to “prescribing”, I could perhaps make more of an impact. For a while now I’ve been thinking that I need to step-up my writing game, but I’ve not wanted to sacrifice emotional integrity by NOT talking about my concerns and shortcomings. Perhaps some people get the wrong idea from it, but it is also true that people generally response to people doing things, not talking about them. I believe this too, but when it comes to writing about my experiences I have conflated writing and doing in an unproductive way.

Further considering the ramifications of the above insight, I’m very much aware that people don’t have a lot of time to spend surfing the Internet, and I want people to feel that they can get something useful on my website. Part of the way that this feeling can be created is by emphasizing authority and experience-based knowledge in the tone of the writing; people generally like to feel they are reading the words of a confident expert, after all. I personally distrust wordsmithing to create a fake sense of competence, and have chosen to openly write about my doubts and uncertainties. I have thought of this as my form of personal integrity and transparency, but I certainly don’t have to write this way ALL THE TIME.

The Month Ahead

I’d like to be producing more tangible goods this month that I know contribute to my strategic goals. I also want to emphasize the giftgiving designer mentality in choosing the tangible projects that produce the goods that support the strategic goals. I think this has a good chance of working, IF I can discipline myself to actually put the time in.

  • First, I’d like to amend my Mission Goals Poster to include the insight about making gifts and gifting experiences as a key part of my business. This touches on everything I aspire to do, and I think it will help give me the absolute confidence to pursue my creative work.

  • I’m also excited about applying the mood management insight as a driver for my content strategy. It’s nice to get a questioning comment that challenges me to re-evaluate what I’m doing, so it was a nice kick in the pants. Thanks Eurobubba!

  • I am going to focus on billable work this month, doing a lot of programming this month. Active “mood management” has helped; after all I know what I’m doing and I can take confidence from that. Remembering to make something periodically will help maintain my good humor, and may be a good counterbalance to the billable work.

  • With the emphasis on billable work, I’ll have to keep much of my blogging and livestreaming, as well as stationery design work, on the backburner. This does hurt, and I don’t want to do it, but money is a priority. I MIGHT be able to maintain some blogging if I consider my process journaling for billable work as a source for new articles. I already am maintaining a succinct developer log for the coding work, rewriting it constantly so it is succinct. Why not also share that content as a kind of “WHAT UP DAVE – WHAT I LEARNED TODAY” report? That could be a nice livestream and blog strategy. I will be mindful of those opportunities. It might not take all that much additional time, since the time-consuming part is the actual logging of the work + end-of-day refinement.

The overall theme this month is to actively manage my expectations rather than let the moods wash over me. Having realized that I know what I’m doing, I don’t need to let the moods open up the same analytical modes that I’ve applied to myself many times over.

This Month’s ACTION ITEMS

While I’m focusing on work this month, I am still maintaining the community building, station/media work, and sharing/gifting what I have. I think these elements are what helps nourish a happier and cheerful me!

To recap, here’s what I want to focus on this month:

  • Find “gifty” things to do to meet the year’s GHDR goals
  • Make a list
  • Update the GHDR 2018 reference poster with the insights I have discussed here
  • List accomplishments in the accrual log

That’s the plan so far! Thanks for reading, and have a great June!


"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.

2 Comments

  1. Lien 2 weeks ago

    Dave, I have followed you on and off for several years (when was the meatloaf cake post? I managed to freak out my whole family for Thanksgiving with that cake. It messed with people’s minds so much, that for the rest of my life I am banned from making Thanksgiving dinners and cakes)

    There is some progression in your style over the years. But some days, as a reader, I feel like I am reading the same post over again (Groundhog Day effect?). You don’t have to sacrifice your emotional integrity by NOT talking about your concerns and shortcomings. However, going into the opposite direction of oversharing your concerns and shortcomings can become indulgent and overshadow your amazing work and achievements over the years.

    There are pieces of writing and poetry, when you can feel the mood, concerns, shortcomings in the choice of words, sentence structures, and setting. There are pieces of writing, that can convey many emotions. However, the story is unfolding through actions. Moodiness and shortcomings make the best stories. But you don’t have to name every feeling to capture and express your mood. Russian classics are known for very moody writing, e.g. Dostoevsky gets you down into depression in no time. Little Prince is emotional (but short and light), the Elegance of a Hedgehog, Poisonwood Bible, I know this much is true, anything truly scary by Stephen King (I don’t remember the title of a book, in which a character is going down a driveway for 3 pages and you want to scream non-stop), some of the short blurbs by Seth Godin deliver a very strong punch. There is Tampopo, Kung Fu Hussle (I know, not writing), or any other movie, which takes you from crying to laughing and back to crying.

    Do step-up your writing game, find someone, whose style is close to yours, imitate and experiment, find your balance of sharing vs. oversharing. But do write.

    • Author
      Dave Seah 1 week ago

      Hi Lien!

      Thanks for your lengthy and thoughtful comment! I am delighted to hear about your experiment with the Thanksgiving cake (that was quite some time ago). I appreciate your candor in sharing your impressions of my writing and writing journey, and yes I think you’re quite right that I seem to be repeating myself over and over. One or two other readers had actually gotten REALLY ANGRY about it and let me know in no uncertain words, and while this used to bother me I’ve kind of made peace with it. I think.

      One of my emergent goals for blogging has been to try to present a real picture of what kind of challenge I face and how I deal with them. The purpose of this is to let it play out, and maybe it will make sense in the end. Of course, there is also my impatient side that would rather just have everything be WINNING immediately. Perhaps you’re right that I’m in the Groundhog Day looping effect, repeating the same thing over and over again. I had felt this a few years ago and was alarmed by it, but now I think maybe it was something I had to do, to be lost in the woods so to speak. I feel ready to make a few changes now.

      Thanks again for your comment, Lien! I will try my best to take it to heart!

A message from Dave:

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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