Hey everyone! This is my very last Groundhog Day Resolutions (GHDR) report, as I don’t plan on doing it in 2020. GHDR is primarily a way to remember WHEN to do yearly goal setting and periodic progress assessment, but over the past 13 years it seems that I’ve not made substantive PROGRESS. At least it FEELS that way, so I am thinking this might be a good time to try something new next year. Hopefully this will bring a fresh perspective as question everything anew!
That said, it has been a pretty good year, filled with tasty personal insights and revelations that will help me figure out what to do next. I just wish that I had more sense of closure on achieving my goals. As I reviewed the past reports for the year, it occurred to me that maybe if I got the same sense of enjoyment I get from learning how to make pineapple cakes (picture above), then maybe I would feel better!
Making pineapple cakes was rewarding in the following ways:
- Friendship! I made these particular pineapple cakes for the office manager at my doctor’s office, which is closing permanently at the end of December.
- Sharing Superlative Experiences! Professionally-baked pineapple cakes are a popular gift in my ethnic homeland of Taiwan, and sharing the story and taste with curious friends to experience for themselves is very enjoyable.
- Expanding Skills! Most people buy their pineapple cakes, but they are hard to find good ones here in the USA so creating them myself is one way of empowering myself while also learning new skills. I’d never made a pastry before, and this experience is the foundation for future baking!
- Practicing Creativity! Creativity is a kind of muscle that is developed, starting with an idea and progressing through stages of discovery through challenging uncertainty.
- Iterative Refinement! Ultimately I want to make great pineapple cakes, and learning to critically experiment and taste my way through failures is my preferred style of learning.
- Tangible, Tasty Rewards! Sweet, sweet victory is mine to share and enjoy with my friends and friends to be. In my ideal world, my experiments are part of a virtuous cycle that inspires all of us to explore, learn, build, and share their creative endeavors.
In hindsight, the way I do Groundhog Day Resolutions is based on the idea that process and discipline are the central core of productivity; if I apply steady disciplined process to my goal-seeking activities, surely progress will follow. While each attempt has yielded a certain amount of productive work, it’s always felt somewhat artificial; despite the diligent tracking and regular assessment showing that I’ve been creating things, it seemed that my strategic goals were always over the next year’s horizon.
I’m not sure what I’ll change in 2020, but I’m thinking the next approach will be more like making pineapple cakes and less about perfecting process. There was a time when I needed to prove to myself that I had process, but at this point in my life PROCESS FALLS OUT OF MY BUTT. I don’t have to think about it…it just happens. The real challenge has always been something else: MOTIVATION perhaps, or IDENTITY+MEANING, or remnants of FEAR, UNCERTAINTY, and DOUBT regarding my ability to keep a roof over my head while maintaining SOCIAL CONNECTION that makes life worth living. I’ve explored all of those issues for years and have learned to manage them, and my gut says that there’s something else I haven’t seen, tried, or simply ACCEPTED…
But we’ll look into all that next year :-)
For THIS report, I’ll look at How I Did on my GHDR Goals, and then get into Lessons Learned. I’ll follow that up with Notable Insights and that’ll be it. I’m taking the rest of the year off to do holiday things and clean house.
Part I: How did I do in 2019?
As I wrote in the kickoff, there were three main areas I wanted to focus on:
MASTERY GOAL: Writing Software – Pragmatically speaking, software is the source of my income. This is a surprise to me, as I didn’t regard myself as a software developer. Reality being what it is, getting better at software development has a direct impact on the bottom line. This ability is also the vehicle to making my own digital products and tools, which will give me new opportunities in the future.
INDEPENDENCE GOAL: Making Products for Sale – The downside of making money from software projects is that it’s the classic exchange of time for money. I’d much rather have the time to myself, but money is an unfortunate prerequisite of life. I already have products for sale that bring in a small chunk of income, so if I could increase that I might achieve creative independence, which I define as having a “meaningful and virtuous revenue cycle”. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
CONNECTION GOAL: Improving My Online Media – Being “creatively-independent” all the time gets boring quickly. Finding kindred spirits to pass the time with is a vital part of my strategic goals. My online media presence is how I share the words and ideas help me find the positive, self-empowered, conscientious, generous, competent, and kind people that I think are part of my chosen tribe. I have not kept up the effort with my blogging and livestreaming, and because of this I have had fewer serendipitous connections/opportunities.
What was new for 2019 was the specific emphasis on Writing Software, which was chosen because I thought I just needed to be more specific, and it didn’t hurt that I was already committed to it. That sets me up for automatic success! The two other goals have existed in similar form for many of the previous Groundhog Day Resolution attempts.
So let’s review: how did I do across these three major strategic goals?
1. Did I write software? Yes!
GRADE: B for Effort (I could have been more enthusiastic), B for Code Quality, B+ for Increased Experience, A for this being a good bet.
2. Did I make products for sale? Yes?
I did one product update (ETP Stickypads) and worked with a consultant friend on brand identity, but then I got sucked into project work and backburnered everything. I find software development mentally draining despite my familiarity with it. This year I finally admitted that it might be too much for me to handle and maintain good mental health.
This year also revealed just how delicate online sales are. This year sales also took a big dip due to increased competition in the Amazon Marketplace, which itself has become increasingly problematic because sellers from China have flooded it with thousands of product listings on a seemingly weekly basis. While they are not counterfeiting my products, I LOST one of my own listing due to (I think) automated bots rewriting it from multiple “registered companies” that were selling a USB charger of all things. On Amazon, you don’t have customers or own your product listing. They all belong to Amazon, not you, so you can’t contact your customers. I’m looking to find another solution, but it’s going to be a pain in the butt and financially it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
That said, making products is an important strategic pillar of supplementing time for money work (e.g. writing software) with something that enables creative independence. Products are an expression of my values and interests as well. Learning how to do this well is still something I would like to do.
GRADE: C+ for Effort, B+ for Quality (products look pretty good), D for Long-term Business Process, A for not letting it get to me.
3. Did I improve my online media? Maybe?
I have felt blocked in my ability to write online. This is due to several factors:
My blog has felt like a mess for years, and I don’t enjoy using it. I’ve wanted to replace it with a new knowledge management system codenamed KM-SSG. This was to be based on a static site generator, but I have not yet put major effort into it other than the initial design.
I have been drained by the software development work, as well as events that have affected my positivity. I have had to manage negativity around me and learn not to let it affect me, which I find difficult. Finding sources of positive energy just to maintain an even keel become a priority over developing my online media presence.
I dropped my Patreon activity, for similar reasons, other than doing the updates for Nanowrimo, the Compact Calendar, the ETP Almanac, and the Word Counting Calendar. I suspended payments for November and December and have encouraged people to drop their support until I can come back and provide some better value.
A great deal of time was taken by my gender identity journey, which is now in its third year. I think I’m in a pretty good place now, having clarified my personal desires and understanding, but it took a lot of time consuming effort. Ironically, this new clarity has also brought increasing discomfort when I look at myself on camera, which has dampened my enthusiasm for the YouTube livestreaming I was doing last year.
A bright spot is that the Virtual Coworking Discord is still humming along in its third year. This gives me an affirming social anchor that is available anywhere I can get the Internet.
GRADE: C for Effort, B for Design Theory, D for Implementation/Adoption, A for maintaining Virtual Community
Part II: Lessons Learned
At the time I started writing this report, I had been intensely dissatisfied because nothing is completed. I crave completion, but annoyingly everything is still in pieces! Argh! In hindsight, perhaps I have foolish expectations based on foolish assumptions with regards to my goals.
Let’s start with what I WANTED to happen:
Software Writing becomes Software Mastery, and everything works! Expressive tools start to yield expressive applications that lead to new opportunities to make wonderful software!
Selling Products begets a strong revenue stream all by itself, freeing me from the shackles of “time for money” existence and allowing me to travel in style unburdened by debt!
Improved Media give me a single system where I can compile data, publish ideas, and engage in public communication, creating a single point of presence on the Internet as my publishing platform!
What happened instead:
- Distracted by lack of completed goals
- Distractions from other projects
- Struck by inability to focus on my own projects when I ostensibly had the time to do it
- A nagging thought that it’s “just another year of the same scattered progress, working by myself on projects that no one cares about”
- Seeing many insights repeat themselves from previous years. Do I ever learn?
- Finding that hard things are still hard, and I still can’t reliably push myself through all the way in any predictable length of time.
Although this list applies to 2019, it could also have been written ANY year of my existence on this planet. In hindsight, perhaps Groundhog Day Resolutions just gave me a way of quantifying the dissatisfaction as a metric to reduce, and I measured my progress in terms of what I was able to do with my talents despite my personal shortcomings. Measuring progress as a reduction in negativity is not a great motivator…that’s game design 101. Duh.
I hypothesize that Foolish Belief #1 is this:
I thought that my continued dissatisfaction with myself was my fault, and therefore I could change myself so they wouldn’t happen anymore.
What’s foolish about this, maybe, is that it actually isn’t my fault because IT’S LIFE, and getting through all these issues is THE PROCESS OF LIVING. In this era of easy access and convenience, it’s easy to forget that doing something that hasn’t already been turned into an order button or an app is going to be HARD.
This leads into potential Foolish Belief #2:
My strategic goals were reasonable and achievable, with clearly visualizable steps. Therefore, they were not big goals and should be within the ability of someone moderately intelligent such as myself.
The foolish part? I think I’ve underestimated the size of my goals. They are enormous, and that becomes apparent if I take two minutes to scope them as a billable project. It’s easy to conflate ease of thinking with ease of doing. We’re all guilty of this, but as a contractor/freelancer I figured I was aware enough to avoid this trap. Apparently not! As a specific example, consider my desire to make the knowledge management system KM-SSG. Simple in theory, but quite intricate in execution. This is, after all, the desire to make ONE PUBLISHING SYSTEM TO RULE THEM ALL, replacing five or six different classes of software with one intuitive experience. Even as I type this I still think it’s not as hard because I can (1) grasp the intent and (2) imagine the emotion of having it. I am that dumb. This is fantasy, not reality. Converting the dream to reality is what I ostensibly specialize in, and yet I have not applied the same rigor to my own projects after all these years. I am an idiot.
The Greatest Disappointment and Failure of 2019
Foolishness aside, what really makes me sad is failing to fulfill what I thought was my GRAND STRATEGIC GOAL of Making Seeds, Toolkits, and Primers. These were supposed to be the tangible embodiment of all three strategic goals. I didn’t really finish (or even start) any of them. It’s baffling, but I have some theories:
- I prioritized tracking, personal evaluation, habit-building, and discipline.
- My attention was absorbed by process and responsiveness to other people.
- I took everything way too personally: every interruption, every mandatory meeting, every chore.
There was not much I could do about the last item; I am relieved that I’ve gotten through a challenging period of my life and had many late-breaking insights that may serve me well in 2020. I still think Seeds, Toolkits, and Primers are the way to go, but instead I perhaps should pursue them DIRECTLY instead of trying to intelligently MANAGE them. Perhaps I should stop thinking like a manager for the first quarter of 2020 and see if that works better for me. Make more pineapple cakes! Worry less about time!
Part III: Notable Events and Insights from 2019
Many insights from this year will carry on to 2020. Here are some of the highlights from past GHDR reports:
I made a pretty cool diagram that described a concept I called THE HARD PATH. This was a subset of my mental “How Dave.Sri works” model, and was to be the focus of my GHDR activities for the year.
I tried a way of chunking my weekly task focus using a two slot + aux model, where I would only have two major tasks per week, reserving the third auxiliary slot for everything else. My theory was that I was bad at multi-tasking, so let me choose just two things. By the end of the year, the two slots had turned into one slot per week.
I re-acknowledged that I am somewhat empathic; negative emotions really affect me and degrade my ability to function. I started to put erect barriers to protect my mental state from those of others, which felt awful but allowed me to weather the year. Still work to be done here, but it’s a good start.
I accepted many personal shortcomings without feeling bad about them. The highlights are (1) I’m not good at focusing on more than one project at a time (2) I am highly sensitive to time to the point it disrupts my ability to work (3) I reduced the number of weekly scheduled meetings to two days to help with focus.
I became involved in more organizational development to grow local community, though this created stress and negative emotions that I had to learn to process. I’m filing this under “this is just life”. Remember: The Obstacle is the Way…
Was able to apply slow-carb and intermittent fasting to my daily routine, and lost significant weight! While I gained some of it back during a very stressful time, I find I’m able to return to the habit pretty easily.
I experimented with an hour of cardio a day for a few months to see how that affected me. I learned that cardiovascular endurance increases VERY RAPIDLY, though weight loss doesn’t result due to increased hunger. Resistance training is the next frontier to explore, particularly developing core strength.
I started a very light course of hormone therapy and my skin cleared up! That makes me really happy. I also have started to develop an eye for my personal fashion, which increases confidence and also strengthens my ability to engage with people who appreciate such things.
I identified “emergent” versus “disciplined” goals as distinct categories. I am much better at serendipitous emergent goal setting. Disciplined goals require a lot more scaffolding to be successful, and it’s OK that I need that.
I identified “current”, “maintenance”, and “future” goals as distinct categories. The hard part of making progress on goals is to rise above “current” and “maintenance” tasks that tend to fill all time. The hard choice is to say NO to them, accept the hit in benefit, and take a chance on doing that future task.
I realized I can trust myself to do a good job of thinking through an issue…once I start. On a similar note, I realized that I didn’t need to track so much information so heavily, because I’ve internalized what I need to make reasonable decisions.
I rediscovered my childhood desire to be part of a great team. As an adult, the new goal is learning to assemble such a team. Maybe that’s my 2020 goal.
I picked up an iPad Pro and discovered that I like digital note taking with Good Notes 5. It’s a game changer in that it gives me another way to think through a problem and easily share my notes.
I learned to reduce stress by not holding so tightly on to social commitments and the expectations that come with them. Doing so just created stress, anger, anxiety, and negativity. By loosening those mental tethers, I’m not so mad all the time now! This is an example of me not taking things so personally…a win!
Although I say this every year, I think 2020 will be great. Will it be more of the same? SURE. But that’s life, and I’m armed with new insights to make some good stuff happen without quite as much foolishness :-)
HOW to do it, though…that’s the real challenge. I’ve been dropping tracking and now I’m dropping GHDR to move into a more unmanaged state of ind. Can I still be reliable and productive? What would happen if I just did one project at a time until it was done, and didn’t multitask at all for weeks on end? One of the late-2019 insights was that I can trust myself to work things out…maybe I should further test the limits of that trust with regards to reliability in performing my paying work. What matters at the end of the day is whether I make stuff and deliver it. If I can do it without a lot of traditional tracking overhead and management, that would be amazing…
We’ll see! Thus concludes my active tracking of GROUNDHOG DAY RESOLUTIONS. It’s been a great experiment, and I’m excited to see what comes next!
|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.|