- September 15, 2019September 15, 2019Read more
There are days where I can’t decide between DOING EVERYTHING or DOING NOTHING. Saturday started out this way, again, as it has many many times before. However, this is the first time I framed the dilemma so succinctly, and thus I was compelled to make a Rory Gilmore-style PRO/CON list to see if any interesting patterns revealed themselves:
DO EVERYTHING PRO LIST
- Well, everything would be done! EVERYTHING. That seems like a big relief.
- Presumably I would be reaping the rewards of done-ness, since this list is about creating shareable resources or skills that are benefit to me.
- I would feel like a badass!
DO EVERYTHING CON LIST
- Realistically, these are hard projects that I can’t finish in a day, and that sucks right now.
- There are a lot of things I would need to learn to do, and I will feel stupid or get angry looking through terrible references on the Internet. Slow and frustrating.
- I have to do all these things by myself, and that seems lonely and sad.
DO NOTHING PRO LIST
- Whatever I choose, whether it is a nap or watching TV or playing a video game, rewards me right away! I deserve it right? I AM ONLY HUMAN.
- And if I feel like going out, I can do whatever I want! No boundaries! No limits!
- I might see something interesting outside that gives me more ideas, or informs my understanding of something that I’ve been thinking about! Stop and smell the roses!
DO NOTHING CON LIST
- Everything on the Everything List is still there. Progress remains stagnant. Death awaits in the shadows.
- Ultimately, I know that these momentary bursts of excitment are hollow and meaningless.
- Whatever insights I derive are interesting but amount to nothing in themselves without additional effort to structure them into something tangible.
As I look through these lists, I’m reminded of the various “brains” that are facets of my personality, much like the characters in the Pixar animated film Inside Out. I characterize my set of “brains” as having the following motivations:
- My monkey brain wants immediate gratification and reward for little effort.
- My lizard brain wants guaranteed reward and refuses to budge for anything less.
- My strategic brain wants to plan the best possible future, check off those boxes, and be prepared.
- My feeling brain wants to feel joy, freedom, and authentic, making connections with other like people.
- My analytic brain observes the other brains and tries to reconcile their actions with the greater universe (ed note: this is the brain writing this blog post).
But back to the choice of DO EVERYTHING or DO NOTHING…each of these brains has some say in how I choose to act and they get paralyzed on days like today. I would say the decision chain starts with The Monkey Brain, as it tends to be the loudest and jumpiest in the way that Wait But Why’s Procrastination article describes so well. The Monkey Brain hates tasks that I know is going to be lonely, tedious, possibly boring, or just “stupid” for some reason unrelated to the task. The only reliable way to break me out of this funk, as I mentioned last week, is including other people in the startup process. I might livestream what I’m doing, which helps focus me. I might ask my development partner Ben to listen to me talk through a problem get build some momentum. I sometimes find talking with people in the Virtual Coworking Chat Room sufficient. What’s in common is that there’s a sense of connection to even start the work; it’s like I need to verify it is really there.
It struck me that when I’m operating in the above mode, I’m fundamentally looking for activation energy to start, after which I work solo for a chunk of time. What’s interesting is that I’m a different person when I’m with other people solving problems in the same room. What was once tedious by itself becomes an exciting group challenge. I love the feeling of being with other people trying to figure something out together, and then acting together. I’ve only had this experience twice in any sustained manner: once back in high school with my two best computer nerd pals, and then later in 2001, with very special people. Every day brought a new challenge and a new solution, together. We were always WORKING TOWARD SOMETHING together. When my friend Bevan passed away in 2003, I tried to keep the spirit going but eventually I gave up. I commited myself to developing my own Independent Way of Dave (now Sri). I sought to become a creatively-independent solopreneur, self-sufficient and complete in myself, that had the integrity and strength to live or die by my word. I pursued this course because I believed that the Universe doesn’t give me what I desire unless I can put that energy out in the first place. I believed I had to learn to justify my convictions and then be strong enough to act on them, because no one else would do it for me.
I don’t think it’s enough anymore. While I got pretty far developing conviction, skills, and strengths, I also know I’ve been really lucky to have the friends I do. I’ve been really luck to have the business friendship I do also that pay the bills and don’t drain my soul. I’m scared to admit that I need more, because I still haven’t found the magic powers in myself I need to grow independently. I’m also scared because MAYBE I never HAD that magic, and I never will. And I’m scared that if I try reaching for more, I will somehow lose what I have or compromise my values too much. Or even worse, find that it wasn’t worth it reaching for because no one cares…
Yeesh. What a downer. But now that I’ve put the feeling into words, my various brains (which tend to be positive overall) have something to say:
- Analytical Brain: “We don’t have enough data to draw those conclusions. Only through action can we get the data to know for sure. These fears are unlikely to lead to terminal embarrassment. Let’s continue to push for more data. Surely there are people like us out there; we have already found some, so it is probably that we will meet more.”
- Monkey Brain: “Other people are a source of random interestingness, so that sounds fun!”
- Feeling Brain: “What matters too is that WE CARE, and demonstrating this to others creates a virtuous feedback loop. It’s important to keep doing it, because it’s good! Just make sure we don’t overdo it with the energy output, because we need plenty of time to process our feelings.”
- Lizard Brain: “Doesn’t sound terrible, so long as I get enough sleep and people don’t invade my personal space.”
- Strategic Brain: “If other people help us get things done, that’s a win. Other people make the work go faster. That’s another win. We can learn better ways of achieving our goals and benefit from the experience of others. That’s yet another win. We may even be able to take on challenging profits with a higher profit margin by working together as a finely-tuned group, once we are able to develop one. That is a great long-term win. I’m in.”
With all brains weighing in, I think maybe there is a solution worth pursuing.
A Fundamental Statement
Let me start by hypothesizing this truth:
I like tackling problems with a group of value-sharing but diversely-talented people, each person commited to making something interesting happen. Being part of a group like this is the best feeling!
What I think I need to do actively form and lead groups, reshaping my so-called WAY OF DAVE so it’s suitable for a group. As it is, I’ve been already helping manage a variety of groups as a volunteer, but I’ve stopped short of really advocating a particular way. Perhaps I can communicate my ideals and recruit people to support them directly? The very thought is kind of scary, but I’m pretty sure it’s the next stage of personal growth even as thoughts like WHAT IF NO ONE CARES? WHAT IF I’M WRONG? echo in my head.
I’m going to pondering what this all means for a while to get comfortable with the idea, and think of strategies on how to implement some kind of experiment. It’s uncomfortable thinking of myself as being a leader or being in any kind of self-proclaimed spotlight, but there is no reason I can think of NOT to try it. If I remember the point isn’t to gratify my own capability but instead is to develop shared group capability, then it feels less hubristic. I’d like to see more of us prosper and grow. I’d like more of us to experience joy, freedom, and authentic friendship with people who are positive-minded, generous, conscientious, curious, and kind. I really want us to find our each individual Ways and walk them independently-but-together. Perhaps THIS time, I have enough experience to see it through.
- September 11, 2019September 11, 2019Read more
Happy September! It’s time for another Groundhog Day Resolutions Update!
To recap, in last month’s review I realized that (1) I was tired of tracking and (2) it really wasn’t delivering the results it used to. I decided to substitute MORE EXTERNAL MOTIVATION TRICKERY in place of tracking to see if “harnessing my tendency to help others before helping myself” would have positive results. In other words, I was trying to WORK WITH the following personality quirks rather than FIGHT or WORK AROUND them as I have in the past:
- My main motivation to work is meeting someone’s immediate aspirational need. (I like helping people if I know how to help)
- My ability to focus is very fragile. (I am easily distracted without external aids constantly redirecting my attention)
- I am easily angered and frustrated when I can not move fast. (I am enraged by poor tools and information that wastes my time)
- I do better work when I don’t think about time. (When I am thinking about time, I could have been doing focused productive work)
- I feel trapped by too many scheduled tasks. Unscheduled tasks, though, are fine. (When I am worried about missing an appointment, these worries interrupt my focus constantly)
- Any scheduled event prevents focus for 8 hours afterwards. (My brain takes time to process external stimuli and is very “noisy”, so deep work is constantly interrupted by memories of the event).
- I absorb other people’s emotions easily and need to guard against sadness.
- I can’t rely on my brain to always be in charge, so have a backup.
- Despite all my shortcomings, I can always rely on my brain to converge toward a good solution, because that’s the way it’s wired.
Instead of fighting them, I wanted to try using them in my favor. Over the past 15 years I’ve tried a lot of tracking systems and productivity tools, and they ALL work so long as you stick to them, but these quirks seem to be innate traits. I’ve developed a lot of good habits and empowering perspectives, but these traits are stubbornly rooted in my very psyche.
So here’s what I did. (more…)
- August 9, 2019August 9, 2019Read more
Happy Groundhog Day Resolutions for AUGUST 8! It’s a day late, but it’s taken some time to figure out how to write about the month. The big news that I alluded to in the recent Fear of Losing Information post is that I’ve dropped a lot of the personal activity data capture + analysis I’ve been doing for the past couple of years. The reporting has always been time-consuming and tedious, but the insights I derived were often useful. I’ve come to realize that I’m well past the point of diminishing returns; in hindsight, many of the insights of recent years are refinements of old ones I’ve had ten years ago, KonMari-style!!!
Instead of detailed GHDR weekly tracking, I’ve started using my digital notebook (Good Notes 5 on an iPad Pro) for my continuity management (photo above). It’s a lot more satisfying and flexible, and I already have switched to using the notebook for ALL “thinking away from the computer”, replacing multiple paper notebooks with one relatively-compact device.
Before I dump the entire tracking process (and get HOURS OF MY LIFE back every week), it’s worth making a list of what I think I’ve learned from it. The result is a kind of “operating list” that I believe keep me feeling balanced.
- July 29, 2019July 29, 2019Read more
I have spent a lot of time looking for personality quirks that block my own productivity. Over the years I’ve modeled these as a weird microcomputer and a system diagram to tackle demons such as lack of self-motivation, inability to start, lack of connection to people, and lack of disciplined progress. Now I have a pretty good understanding of all those things, and more importantly I know what is important to me. After 15 years of blogging about myself, it boils down to this:
I want to have an excellent time doing excellent things with excellent people to make the world more excellent.
I can’t help but think party on, dudes! after that, because it reminds me so much of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure but it’s also quite a resonant feeling. I’ve spent my years pondering:
- What IS an excellent time for me? What are the activities I find enjoyable and worthwhile?
- What ARE excellent things as far as I’m concerned?
- Who ARE the excellent people? And am I part of that tribe? Do I have to gather them myself?
- What DOES make the world more excellent? Is it teamwork? Community?
I’m happy to say that I have answers to ALL of those questions, and if anyone is curious I’ll be glad to write them up sometime (leave a note in the comments). But still I am stuck on the actual DOING OF THE EXCELLENT THINGS. It’s difficult, and it’s slow, and it seems that something else always comes up to throw my planning into disarray. Not to mention that while I like planning, I don’t like following plans at all. My Groundhog Day Resolutions have been my ongoing attempt to follow those plans, be disciplined, and produce those concrete results that are at the heart of making any sort of progress in life. And after 13 years of it, I’ve learned a whole lot about process but I still suck at it.
Today, I have a new theory about why I suck at my own planning: it’s driven by fear, specifically a fear of losing information. I’d like to talk about it for a minute. (more…)
- July 16, 2019July 16, 2019Read more
In the official July 7 GHDR Assessment, I wrote a rambling analysis of what I was doing wrong in thinking about my goals.
- ANALYSIS: I’m not making progress that feels meaningful.
- HYPOTHETICAL FIX: I should define my tasks as complete mini project briefs that embody desire, questions to answer, and a target person’s actual needs so I have a complete context to work with.
While I really want to do is make progress on my big aspirational goals, but for the next few weeks I need to focus on developing software for our internal August 1 deadline. This gives me clarity about how to proceed, but the thing I’m not doing are weighing heavily on my mind. To help keep my head clear of these distracting details, I spent a couple of hours making a list of everything on my mind:
There are three project areas on the left, and I’ve highlighted the key areas that I’ll focus on this week. A large miscellaneous task list and scheduled interruptions are the other happenings for the week that will eventually get done.
A challenge for myself is to make ANY progress on a non-software job, particularly posting something new to my works.davidseah.com site to try to get things moving. I find mustering the discipline to make progress on projects that no one is asking for very difficult, but that will be my challenge to report on next week.