Again I am late posting review #8 for my 2018 Groundhog Day Resolutions! It’s taken me a while to distill my thoughts.
After several months of experimenting with my time and expectation management processes, I have three major insights that drive this month’s review:
- Surprise Insight #1: I am ALREADY quite prepared to take on my challenges, so stop worrying about that part of it. I am not perfect at it, but I am skilled enough to START and learn along the way.
- Surprise Insight #2: I am ALREADY living my Groundhog Day Resolutions as a daily habit and way of life. That is in itself a MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT. I can relax knowing that the habit will tend to keep me on the path.
- Acceptance Insight #3: Like it or not, I have an EASILY DISTRACTED BRAIN and years of pursuing focus and discipline methods have not changed permanently changed its nature. So instead of constantly being frustrated with it, let it produce what it does in the way it does. It’s still good stuff, so I’ll stop worrying about how it makes the sausage.
Taken as a whole, I think I’ve start to accept myself for who I am, shortcomings and all. I found this quote by Michael Shur quite relevant and beautiful:
“In the face of so much badness […] it is always tempting to give up. But the heroic thing is simply to try.”
In the spirit of trying, I’ve reorganized my Groundhog Day Resolutions goals yet again to take these new insights into account. The goals themselves are the same, but I’m just thinking about them from another point of view.
Shifting from Project Goals to System Principles
I think I have a few key areas that drive me. These SOCIAL, PERSONAL, and PROFESSIONAL principles see to be at the heart of at many of my activities:
THE SOCIAL PRINCIPLE: To anchor a community following a “common good” manifesto, creating a surplus of benefits that can be shared with the group and beyond.
THE PERSONAL PRINCIPLE: To ensure that I’m (1) effectively usng my limited mental resources to (2) advance my “benefit creating” projects that also (3) generate enough financial reward to allow me to continue doing this work while (4) not being bored or taken for granted.
THE PROFESSIONAL PRINCIPLE: To create a body of excellent original work that empowers people to contribute both to their own personal development and to the common good.
I’m pretty confident of these principles. What causes me trouble are the specific quirks of of my brain:
- Like it or not, I have a brain that tries to escape boring and tedious work.
- My brain is easily distracted with small working memory capacity.
- My brain has difficulty staying focused without external memory aids.
- My brain doesn’t like the feeling of being in captivity or limited in activity.
- My brain is extremely good at synthesizing deep patterns of understanding.
- My brain is quite capable at producing high-quality goods, but it needs a lot of help to start moving.
Many of my productivity tricks have been designed to compensate for the quirks of my brain, but I never really accepted my brain’s nature as-is. Instead, I have thought it was something I could IMPROVE given enough training. It’s only recently that I’ve lowered my expectations of myself, but I didn’t feel good about it. I think now I’m ready to try accepting myself as I am. This new path is informed by my surprise two-year investigation of my gender identity; I’d recently accepted that it’s part of me and I’m now proceeding under the assumption that it’s not going away. With the clarity that comes from that difficult decision, I’m finding it’s a bit easier to move forward. After all, feeling bad about something is itself a distraction, so anything I can do to eliminate it is a good thing.
Current Progress on All Goals
Back in August I hypothesized I can only handle 1-2 projects at a time, and my observations seem to confirm this. At first, just 1 or 2 projects at a time seemed terribly low, but it occurred to me that perhaps my notion of a “project” is complicated enough that it’s unrealistic to expect much more. After all, my IMPORTANT projects are usually comprised of (1) challenges I am learning to master that require (2) multi-faceted distillation, analysis, and synthesis with (3) uncertain requirements and times of completion. It is MADNESS to think that I can “complete” anything with surety every day; for my first run through a project, I can at best figure out how things work, and that’s likely to be slower.
Along this line of thinking, the insight that “shallow work is just as important as deep work” helped adjust my expectations. This has helped alleviate feelings of frustration. Another way of handling frustration is to group projects into one of three balance categories that mirror my system principles: WORK, SOCIAL, and SELF-CARE. When I’m getting WINS in all three categories, then I generally feel pretty good. So let me evaluate the month in that context.
1. WORK – PRETTY GOOD!
Projects in this meta category are related to my overall mission AND this year’s tangible GHDR targets for business development; I’ve written about this in previous reports. For this year the targets are this:
- Stationery Business
On the software side, my colleague and I delivered a milestone for one project and started another this month. We also committed to new standards of excellencem defining a new code review process that seems to work well. I’m feeling like we’re hitting a good stride.
Regarding the stationery business, I am hiring someone to help sharpen my thoughts and procedures by being a sounding board; we’re going to work out the details next week. I’m not sure exactly what will work best for me, but I’m trying to take more active responsibility of the process rather than wait-and-see how it goes.
On the backburner is restarting my blogging and livestreaming, which I probably will restart in 2019. I’ve been inspired by two sources: David Chang’s NetFlix show Ugly Delicious and Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History. I like the way these programs combine information with personal storytelling.
Also on the backburner is my knowledge management system (aka KM/SSG), which will someday replace both my website and my digital project notebooks. I am currently just saving my current documents (such as this post) in the project’s document folder structure. The software system will come later.
2. SOCIAL – NOT BAD!
Although I have plenty of contact with the people who live inside my computer chat rooms, face-to-face time keeps me from turning into a disconnected robot.
The highlight of the month was the business trip to New Jersey, where I met the research team and my development partner and friend Ben Loh. We ate tasty foods and discussed new project directions. It turns out Newark is an easy flight from Manchester, New Hampshire; it may be a new getaway destination for a change of scenery.
FOOD is a highly social activity too. This month I conducted exciting experiments with Hawaiian pizza making and pulled pork. I launched an investigation into what a good bagel was, consulting with the experts in my circle of friends. I discovered that there was decent BBQ from a food truck in a nearby mall, and shopped for the first time at Russian and Indian grocery stores in the area with other friends. I am also a few pounds heavier this month, and my blood sugar has spiked according to my doctor, but I think it was worth it.
3. SELF CARE – HOLDING STEADY!
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve accepted that I’m transgender and that has alleviated a lot of uncertainty. This is a major win! I spent a lot of time on the following topics this month:
- Researching and trying electrolysis
- Researching and trying different names
- Experimenting with different manners of expression
- Talking to people about it to get their impression
- Talking with medical professionals about ramifications
- Talking with myself to manage fear/uncertainty/doubt
Also included in self care are things like doing chores, bills, health care and other sundry matters. These kind of maintenance chores used to bug me because I thought they took away time from “more important” things. With my current stance that “one or two projects a day are OK”, I am now able to make room for them with less negativity. That’s a pretty big win.
I probably should also get back to diet and exercise; I just had a doctor’s appointment and my blood sugar is a bit high. I’d like to get to 185 pounds in 3 months, which corresponds with my next checkup.
Focus for October
To keep from feeling “trapped by work”, I’m allocating up to 15 hours a week for this work. I may work more, but it feels more free not to have a high minimum hour count. I know the work will get done.
I have two main projects.
Improvements for the NET CREATE Project – Net Create is another tool we made for researchers studying network graph representation in the digital humanities. The classroom tests in early October went well, but there are a few things we need to do to make it better for the next round of studies in Spring 2019. We’ll also be doing code review and bug fixes.
Starting the MEME Project – This is the new project we’re doing with researchers at Rutgers and Indiana University, developing a software tool to present scientific system modeling concepts to 5th graders. I will be figuring out how to enhance our past tools, making them easier to use for non-technical users. I’ll also be figuring out how to turn them into components that can be maintained separately and remixed into future projects. Getting the basic system off the ground is my primary focus this month; the deliverable system is for next year.
For personal matters, I have several projects:
Stationery Business – I’ve put all my other projects on hold except the stationery business, which mostly runs itself on Amazon.com. I’ll be talking to some potential bookkeepers and business colleagues to figure out how to (1) get better reporting on the Amazon side of things and (2) get help focusing on just a handful of project initiatives. Tied into the stationery business is my regular blogging and livestreaming, which helps drive interest, but also fulfills deeper personal needs (see next section).
How to Blog/Stream/Create Again – I am still on “blogging/livestreaming” hiatus. This makes me sad, but the time away has helped me to rethink what I’d like them to be. The only content streams I am maintaining are Groundhog Day Resolutions, The Compact Calendar, The Emergent Task Planner 365 Day Almanac, and the Word Counting Calendar for Nanowrimo. I’d like to do more fun things at a higher level of polish, both in content and production.
Renovating My Personal Appearance – Now that I’ve accepted my transgender state, my most visible effort is pursuing a “non-binary” mode of dress, mixing masculine and feminine elements together. For example, I might wear a fitted men’s shirt in a bright color, and pair it with a nice cardigan with a more feminine sweep. I might wear shoes that are feminine but also wear a sturdy men’s bowler hat. I also always wear nail polish, but only on the left hand. I want to ensure I appear cheerful and approachable, but also telegraph, “they are not strictly male or female in their gender identity”. So far, reactions have been very mild, so there is probably quite a bit of wiggle room. I’ve been trying on different names too at Starbucks, which gets printed on the side of their coffee cups.
In addition to focusing on the above areas, I’ll also use this meta assessment:
- Did I contribute materially to “the common good” as I have defined it? List my actions.
- Did I gain monetary assets, pay off debts, or do anything that increased my business revenue? Provide statement.
- Did the universe acknowledge any impact I’ve had on the people in it? Provide stories.
- Did I produce anything tangible and share it on my website? Provide links.
- Did I create or strengthen social bonds in my communities? Pictures or it didn’t happen!
I know that all of these assessments contribute to my sense of feeling like I’m making a difference. I’ll continue to keep doing the weekly reviews on Sundays-ish to make sure I can remember everything. I’ll also try to make the report format more succinct.
So overall, it’s been a very insight-driven month centered around self-acceptance and the surprising thought that I am on the right path to somewhere, so stop worrying already and get on with it.
To close out the report on a yummy note, here’s a mini report on how my bagel education is proceeding!
I’m told a good bagel has a kind of dense, moist, chewy center that comes from boiling. The outer skin should be a bit crisped and blistered from being baked. A good bagel tastes good untoasted, as toasting just makes even an inferior bagel taste OK.
The first bagel (above, left) was my starting bagel, from a shop in New Brunswick near the hotel. It’s an everything bagel with cream cheese and lox.
The second bagel (above, model) was from a nearby coffee shop a bit further from the hotel, and was merely ok being a breakfast sandwich with egg and sausage. Not bad. More bready.
Bagel 3 was from Einstein Bagels, a chain that was described to me as having “terrible bagels”. I ordered the same kind of bagel as the first one (cream cheese and smoked salmon), and it was a perfectly fine sandwich, but it lacked the resilliance and chewyness. In fact, it compressed down flat as soon as I picked it up…weird! It was also toasted.
Bagel 4 is from one of the local bagel shops here in Nashua. I ordered an everything bagel with cream cheese and lox, and it had way too much filling. I couldn’t really tell if it was good or not. I had ordered it untoasted.
Bagels 5 and 6 were from the same bagel shop, a salt bagel and a garlic bagel. The salt bagel, according to my house guest, was very good and he would actually eat it again. The garlic bagel, sadly, had been coated with garlic before being put in the oven, not later. This resulted in a burned garlic bitterness…terrible! There was some blistering on the bottom of the bagels (above, right) but otherwise I wasn’t sure I liked them.
Current takeaway: I don’t think I really like bagels! :O Thanks for reading, see y’all next week with my followup report!
|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.|