GHDR 2019 March Review: The Hard Path versus Natural Path

GHDR 2019 March Review: The Hard Path versus Natural Path

The Obstacle is the Way Happy Belated Groundhog Day Resolutions GOAL REVIEW DAY!!! I spent all day Sunday helping set up an exhibit for “Ralph Baer Day”. Ralph Baer, if you’re not familiar with video game lore, is the guy who invented Pong and is from my home state; my contribution for the celebration was writing the code for the giant PONG game that we made together. After setting up I was too tired to finish writing the review.

To recap, this year I’m trying to really do the DIFFICULT things, having embraced the Stoic notion of THE OBSTACLE IS THE WAY. I even bought a shiny medallion to remind me of this (above), gut it’s proving tougher to get into the mindset I liked. If it’s tough, then I guess that means it’s the right path by my own reasoning? I don’t really know for sure, so…LET’S REVIEW!

Review of the Month’s Goals

As I mentioned in the preamble, getting into the HARD PATH MINDSET has been a bit difficult. Here’s some of my thoughts on why:

1. DEFINING THE HARD PATH IS NOT THE SAME AS WALKING IT

I’m a big believer in tangible products as proof of achievement of any goals. For GHDR 2019’s two strategic goals, I have a list of several SEED, KIT, and ELBS projects that fulfill that criterion:

  • SEED projects are personal growth kits that people can use to develop their own ideas around a sturdy conceptual framework
  • KIT projects are any kind of step-by-step assembly project that people can use to learn how to do something using a set of tools
  • ELBS projects are “explore, learn, build, share” activities where I am providing examples of how I solved a particular problem, warts and all, and got some kind of result

These are the kind of projects that I think will help elevate the level of work I do, and having such projects has been one of my aspirations for a long time.

FEBRUARY ASSESSMENT – Did I do any of them? NO!!!! These are hard projects not because they are technically hard, but because it’s hard for me to do something that no one is asking for. I know that once I have a few of these projects completed and ready to share, they will make NEW OPPORTUNITIES possible, and I will have LEARNED NEW SKILLS and OPENED NEW WAYS TO REACH PEOPLE. This is a STUCK pattern that I’ve had for decades, and I’m sure it’s familiar to a lot of people out there.

2. IT IS EASY TO FALL INTO EASY OPPORTUNISTIC DOING

On the other hand, I have actually made progress on the GHDR 2019 goals. They are:

  • Pursue Software Development Mastery – In practical terms, being a “better developer”, and therefore more capable and able to do things that are on my “HARD PATH” list of projects above.
  • Improve my Amazon/E-Commerce Practices – I don’t really have a solid e-business, which is important for bringing in more income that can help fund my various “HARD PATH” projects.

FEBRUARY ASSESSMENT – I DID do many things that helped my software mastery and ecommerce practice.

  • I wrote on a big PONG game, refined, expanded, and documented my knowledge of Javascript
  • I got the ball moving on new paper products, sales reporting, and marketing

What’s noteworthy is that these two strategic goals were done with the help of OTHER PEOPLE; before I would have wanted to do it all myself. I’m trading that desire to control for the joy of working with people who “get” what you’re doing, and it is through those ties that I achieve my community building personal goal.

3. I FIND IT HARD TO BALANCE EVEN A SMALL AMOUNT OF PROJECTS

Last year I came up with the TWO-SLOT+AUX model of production for myself as a way to set realistic expectations for myself. My reasoning was that by reducing the number of projects I focused on at once, I would be more effective and less stressed. Two slots in my brain are for “purposeful goals” like the ones for GHDR2019, and the “AUX” slot is general purpose to cover anything else that will pop into my head and wants doing. Generally I think the model works, but my mind really wants to have 10 slots. I picked two slots as a compromise because having just one slot feels like a TRAP to me; it feels like I have more freedom with with two slots and an auxiliary slot to pick from.

In practice, it is hard not to overstuff the slots with too many things too fast, and perhaps a better way to model the slots is without strict or exclusive boundaries. I still have three “slots of attention” that I can maintain during the week before they feel stale, but sometimes all three slots are filled with one concern. For example, last week I had to drive to Boston for my Global Entry interview with Customs and Border Protection, and this had been weighing on me for months. How was I going to get there? Should I go early to beat traffic? Where is it exactly? Will I get body cavity searched? Will I get lost? The actual interview took 10 minutes and was a breeze, but for the days before the interview ALL SLOTS WERE FILLED.

So the general takeaway from this is that “TWO SLOT+AUX” isn’t really a model of how my brain works. It is perhaps mental model to remind me me that AT MOST under OPTIMAL CONDITIONS I can handle two big things and a raft of random stuff every week. It’s not intended to be an EFFICIENT model of production to aspire to, but to HELP PREDICT available ability to focus. That’s just the way my brain works, and instead of getting mad at it I just have been trying to make the best of it. That said, the challenge is to figure out ways to hack my own brain to trigger more “hard path” task starts.

FEBRUARY ASSESSMENT – I did a lot of things, but I found it difficult to do many things and ALSO focus on boring work. My mind wandered a lot this month. Maybe that’s OK.

4. BASIC BILLABLE WORK AND SOCIAL OBLIGATIONS CONSUME SLOT SPACE

I have been preoccupied with billable project work because I have had a couple of low-income months, and have a month-long trip planned to visit with my dad in Taiwan. There is a bit more pressure too to deliver some cool stuff to the researchers in New Jersey, but I have been focused more on tiring unsexy infrastructure work. That work is now in reasonable shape, so I am ready to go all GRAPHICS MODE on the project. It’ll be a nice change of pace, but it requires a change in my mindset from “software systems architecture” to “visual designer”.

FEBRUARY ASSESSMENT – Much was learned, but it burned up all my time and contributed to a sense of not having time to do anything fun. So of course, my monkey brain was HIGHLY DISTRACTED.

Evaluation of Working Goals – Specifics

Looking at my observations, maybe the last month wasn’t too bad. Let’s look at the specifics of what got done, then I’ll have a better idea of how I feel about everything.

SLOT 1: SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT MASTERY

I focused on on billing hours, making progress on new tech, and documenting best practices.

  • MEME – multiple goals: git rebase, addressing front-end, research and development of best practices, learning how to manage an open source library
  • PONG PROJECT – Arduino software interfacing, large scale exhibit best practice review, group collaboration and new technologies learned
  • METRICS – tracked project hours: 57 (44 BILLABLE)
  • METRICS – estimated hours spent: 20 (0 BILLABLE)

FEBRUARY ASSESSMENT – I opportunistically did things that add to my Software Development Mastery. What is missing are the KITS and SEEDS that represent a higher value return. Instead I’ve just let life push me along, opportunistically choosing to frame my action in terms of a GHDR goal. I’d like to double those billable hours in March, which is still a low target but is still pretty decent.

SLOT 2: ECOMMERCE IMPROVEMENT

I talked to Brenda, Alex, and Frank about my use of Amazon FBA (fufillment) and designed an upgraded version of the StickyPad ETP.

  • PRODUCT – New ETP StickyPads. Worked with Frank to figure out new packaging.
  • MARKETING – Met with Brenda to talk about reporting and ask her to make a landing page, set March 10 deadlines
  • ACCOUNTING – Hired Alex to show me how he watches numbers to get a sense of how he
  • METRICS – 161 ORDERS (mostly one units). No historical comparison data yet available.
  • METRICS – estimated hours spent on meetings about E-commerce: 4

FEBRUARY ASSESSMENT – I did a bit better here, because I’m actually making tangible product changes. I think the main reason progress is happening is because I involved other people to help push me. Maybe I need to seek a similar energy for my Software Development Master goal.

AUX SLOT: EVERYTHING ELSE

Typical activities include Self Care, Social, Random Opportunities, Coworking Entrepreneurial Stuff, and Transition-related reflection.

  • DISCORD – Maintaining the community, daily discussion (estimated time: 2 hours a day)
  • PONG PROJECT – Several sessions to tune the exhibit code and improve it
  • HEALTH – Weight loss through fasting, slow-carb combination. Now monitoring weight weekly on Thursday with a friend.

FEBRUARY ASSESSMENT – I have also DROPPED any household-related stuff, minimized social interaction to 2X a week when possible. My house is a mess, but I am deciding not to add cleanup to my current list of priorities. Perhaps I should add an explicit stuff not to worry about this month as part of the 2-SLOT+AUX model. Focus is both the ability to put one’s whole attention into a project AND the ability to disregard all other inputs.

Meta Assessments

Now I want to make some qualitative checks. I’ll use last year’s assessment criteria:

DID I CONTRIBUTE TO THE COMMON GOOD?

I think of The Common Good as anything that helps empower and support others in their dreams. Primarily, I think maintaining the DISCORD and also participating in the RALPH BAER PONG PROJECT was my contribution, helping create an aura of self-empowered positive creation action!

DID I IMPROVE MY FINANCIAL POSITION?

I worked more hours than usual, and therefore paid down considerable debt. There’s a good chance I can eliminate quite a lot of it before I go visit family in Taiwan, and a good chance I can eliminate all of it this year if I can maintain my course. So I feel pretty good.

DID SOMETHING I DO CAUSE A RESPONSE FROM THE UNIVERSE?

The PONG project has helped me recognize just how poorly socialized I am; interacting with the people on the PONG project has helped me reset what it means to be part of a positive team. However, there were no big surprises that didn’t meet expectation. Maybe one thing is that I did reach out to people to see if they wanted to do something, which then caused something to happen in return. That’s the sort of everyday response that can keep my days interesting: asking for something interesting and seeing what comes up!

DID I PRODUCE AND SHARE SOMETHING TANGIBLE ON MY WEBSITE?

Hm, not really. I did start the groundwork for the GHDR subsite, looking into new web technologies (NextJS, Material UI) that will be pressed into service soon!

DID I CREATE OR MAINTAIN MEANINGFUL SOCIAL BONDS

I did! Through the PONG PROJECT, and a handful of meetings with friends, had a nice dinner or three. Got in contact with an old friend. Discord chat room is going strong. I have no complaints.

Overall Assessment: B

It was a positive month. New thing made: the PONG GAME presentation engine. That’s kind of huge, and laids the foundation for future projects not just for me and my friends in the area, but possibly for some of my business projects. I like the idea of NEW THINGS MADE! That should be a metric.

BONUS PICTURES

Ralph Baer Day SetupVideo CoworkingMantisX Training System

Spent the day setting up the giant PONG game (above left). Also spent a nice morning trying video coworking with people in the Discord Coworking Chat and it was a good time (above middle). I have been going to the shooting range more frequently too, and have gotten serious about improving my technique! I picked up this MantisX accelerometer (above,right) that precisely tracks how you move your hand while firing a pistol, and it diagnoses what you are doing wrong. It’s pretty cool!

Golden Koi - Scallion Beef RollupGolden Koi - Beef Noodle SoupCalifornia Burrito - TacosOn the food front, I tried out a new restaurant that seemed to have Taiwanese food, a relative rarity in this part of the country. The chef is from Taiwan, and he made this scallion pancake with beef (above left) and a passable beef noodle soup (above middle). Not a bad place! I also finally tried a Mexican place that had taken over the space of my previous favorite Mexican place. It turns out the new place is just as good as the old place and has plenty of authenticity that I feared was gone. I’m kicking myself now for not going earlier to have some tacos (above right).

Goals for March 3 to April 3

PRIORITY SLOTTED ITEMS

  • BILL more hours than this month!
  • get the MEME drawing report out!
  • get the PACKAGING for the new ETP sticky pads out!
  • get regular monthly reporting started and posted!
  • get GHDR SUBSITE UP with NEW TECH
  • monitor WEIGHT with friends: target weight 182lbs for APRIL 4

DON’T WORRY / DON’T DO LIST

  • cleaning the house or basement: NOT THIS MONTH
  • interaction: LIMIT TO ONE or TWO DAYS ONLY each week, ONE if possible
  • hard path SEED, ELBS, KIT project: NOT THIS MONTH; FOCUS ON BILLING HOURS

REMEMBER

  • have some fun, don’t try to do everything
  • indulge in some happy bubble time projects

That’s it! See ya next 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 2019 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 2019 Groundhog Day Resolutions page.