Jay Shirley

Striving to be a man of gallantry and taste

December in Review

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My December Challenge was singularly focused and a bit different than previous challenges. I thought it would be easier, and I knew that with the holidays, my anniversary and all other events it would be hard to do an endurance challenge (like my favorite, the August challenge of posting every day).

My December Challenge was to clearly and articulately define:

What is my purpose?

I felt going into 2014 I need to have a single goal that helped guide my actions. I had already defined the 5 critical area’s of my life that I wanted to devote my energy towards, but that didn’t clearly lay out a path. My areas of focus are:

  • Pursuit of social and behavioral knowledge
  • Family
  • My Public Presence
  • Health
  • Build a sustainable business

As I wrote previously, it’s entirely easy to be too vague when discussing these matters. I could say that I’m going to build a business that supports well-being using knowledge! Except that’s what I’ve been trying, and it isn’t focused enough. It isn’t defined enough. A purpose transcends a business, it is the underlying motivation to undertake the irrationality that is starting something fresh and sharing it with the world.

A Small Confession

While I love building TDP and seeing the users, it has always served me. It was my tool, and it just maybe helped others. I didn’t realize how much I had felt this way, even though I love having a product out that people use. Having users feels good, but it doesn’t adequately change my usage or development of TDP.

As I was working through the exercises this month I realized how quick I am to discard completely legitimate requests because they aren’t how I use, or would use, TDP. This is why I suck at building a business, even if I can use a product I enjoy that gets some users.

This discussion came about since I’ve decided I really want to share what I wrote through October as a book. Talking about this with my wife I commented, “This is an odd feeling, right now. I actually have this fear. I want people to like it. I want people to read it. I’ve never felt that way, even with TDP and other projects—I haven’t cared if people like it.”

Her response was dead on:

That’s why you haven’t built a business yet.

So what is a purpose anyway?

A purpose in life is not rigid, it is fluid. It changes, because we change. A purpose does not give meaning to existence, it justifies the gift of the energy we possess.

Purpose is how I choose to manifest my meaning of the life I have.

It took me the better part of the month to figure out how to define purpose. Let alone what I wanted to focus on. I started panicking as we got close to Christmas, because I was still oscillating and vague.

Fortunately, the week prior to Christmas was my wife and I’s 10 year anniversary. My parents graciously arranged a trip to San Diego and babysat our kids, so we got to take off for a few days. Spending a few days near the ocean, talking walks, thinking and talking about this was the best thing for me.

Aside from my wife, I asked the wisest friend I have, Jerry Colonna. He sent me a few books to read; it’s a special type of person that knows just the right books to help someone find the answers to their questions. I hope to some day be that friend and mentor. He gives me something to aspire towards.

Introducing: My Purpose

Ok, first I have some criteria to define. My purpose must be specific and targeted to an audience that I can directly interact with. This means very, very small. Lean Startup small.

I must be able to measure progress, and that means having tactics week over week, month over month, in which I can review and compare desired results versus active results.

This may make my purpose and goals seem underwhelming. I’d rather them be underwhelming and I achieve 70% success than to be amazing and achieve nothing.

Actually introducing My Purpose

My purpose is to be better and document exactly how. I want to talk to more people who also want to do this. I’ve been emailing with Andrew Tarvin and he’s been very encouraging. This is a guy who frames his life around asking, “What’s a quality day?”.

For 2014 I’m going to seek out more of these types of people. I’m going to find companies that want to do better but may not know exactly how. It isn’t about letting everybody work from home, or throwing everybody into an open floor plan (especially, don’t do this). I’m going to be more deliberate about this, tracking what I find works and doesn’t work.

This is my purpose now. It may not be in 2015. For now, this will do.