“Setting the bar too high.”
“Setting stretch goals with the knowledge that coming up short will be the norm.”
…are symptoms of forward-looking assessment of progress. Assessing progress by looking forward is a grievous error. “What have I accomplished?” is only measurable by looking back at what has been accomplished. This error is one of my big problems—I’d even say it’s my #2 problem. I’m working on it by practicing looking back to assess progress. :) My instinct and habit though is to look forward. Thus, more practice is needed to make looking back the default.
What have I accomplished?
What is the affect of what I have done?
How far have I moved?
How much have I learned?
Such questions can only be answered by considering the change between two points in my past.
The hard part—at least for me—is to keep out the “I wanted.” “I accomplished that much, but I wanted to accomplish [insert goal here],” creeps in through the open door of assessment.
By shifting my eyes just a bit to my left, I can see my personal oath which is stuck next to my monitor. There are a few phrases in it which are specifically meant to help me keep, “but I wanted to…” firmly locked outside.
One day I’ll be a filmmaker! One day I’ll be a famous artist! One day I’ll be a CEO! One day I’ll be a Creative Director! One day I’ll be a Venture Capitalist! And so forth.
Then you get to a certain age and you realize that the time for “One Day” is over. You’re either doing it, or you’re not. And if you’re not, a feeling of bitter disappointment starts hitting you deep into the marrow. Which explains why we all know so many people in their 30s and 40s having mid-life crisis’.
~ Hugh MacLeod
Whether I’m different, or have already passed through that, I know not. What I can tell you is that my problem is not at all a feeling of not doing what I want to do.
My problem is the feeling that I am doing too many different things. All things I’ve chosen. All things which I’m passionate about. All things which are cool, rewarding, meaningful and make the world a better place.
The thing I care the most about: what do you do when no one is looking, what do you make when it’s not an immediate part of your job… how many push ups do you do, just because you can?
~ Seth Godin
Stumbled over this 8-year-old post from Seth. It’s suprisingly apropos—confirmation bias in action I suppose—of a conversation I just had.
There are two ways I can go with my thoughts on this: It turns out that I do a lot push-ups, (and other things, “Hello, Art du Déplacement,”) just because I can. But I think there’s a more interesting thread I can pull from this serendipity.
I don’t trust inspiration. I don’t trust it to show up, let alone motivate me. If something inspires me, I channel that energy to envision the path which could make the inspiring idea into some reality. I use moments of inspiration to propel me into doing the hard work of figuring out the next possible step. …and the step after that. …and after that.
The rest of the time—most of the time in fact—all I’m doing is working my systems. A bit of this, a bit of that, some of this, and some of that.
Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don’t make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.
~ Hugh MacLeod
I am way above the snow line. I believe my toes have succumbed to frost-bite. It has not escaped me that people die on Mount Everest. It has not escaped me that no one cares about your ascent unless you come back with a great story.
Unfortunately for my well-being, the sun is out, the sky is blue, and there’s no one left to tell me to stop climbing.
There is a tremendous disparity between the passion and effort that goes into a work of art and the amount a person is likely to pay for it. Some areas pay better than others, and your passion may very well not create much in the way of salable value for anyone else.
~ David Cain
This is such a critical point! Even if my passion, “comes through,” in what I create, that doesn’t necessarily mean others will value my work.
Worse, there’s always some amount of capriciousness to the valuation made by others. Even if I’m making something clearly of value, if that isn’t aligned with other people’s values, I’m still screwed. Passion is critical, but has little to do with success.
When people in the workplace confront shift, rift, zooming, and all of the other challenges that make up business life, there is one thread that runs through all of the choices that they make: Either they’re torchbearers, or they’re not.
~ Seth Godin
Something I talk often about is goal visualization. I’m a firm believer in the idea that “close” and “almost” do not pass muster. When I’m working, and when I’m helping others work, I visualize the goal: We need a door in this wall. It has to be this high, and wide enough for furniture to pass through. And the more specific the goal, the better. The door itself need not be insulated, but it should match the decor of the rooms on either side. It needs an easy to use, single-handle latch/door knob combination. When work begins, I then use the goal as a decision razor: For every choice—every choice, no exceptions—does this option or solution move me towards the goal? Is this a detour that moves me farther from the goal, but then makes it much easier later. [Otherwise known as front-loading work.] Along the way I visualize the state of the world at each step; We’ll knock a hole in the wall on Tuesday—wait, we have a dinner party on Friday… can we be done by Friday?
I’m not only imagining the goal. I’m imagining every single step along the way. What can go wrong? What can go better-than-expected, and what if anything should we do with that gain? And why did we choose this path? …maybe we should re-assess that decision and go this other way, now that we have this new intel having come this far? How important is this goal? …is this a goal to reach at all costs? …can we move the goal now that we have new knowledge? Can we shift some of the work into a next segment of work, shifting our current goal onto an intermediate point along the way to the ultimate goal.