Jay Shirley

Striving to be a man of gallantry and taste

The Nagging Gap

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The other day my wife complimented me. I think she did, anyway. She didn’t (often) feel a need to nag me anymore. I had to stop and remember nagging. It’s actually been a while! I can excuse myself for not thinking about it. Just like the tasks she nagged me about, nagging itself was something easily forgotten.

Why I got nagged

In any relationship (or partnership), there are certain duties that fall on one’s shoulders. Often times these aren’t set in stone, it is merely that one person tends to do more than the other. With my wife, I have pretty common divisions. I typically take the garbage out, kill bugs while she typically cooks. I still love to cook, she’ll take the garbage out. Bugs are a hard line.

We have established basic guidelines for who is responsible for the regular tasks. There a lot of things that come up without clear ownership. Over the years, she asked me to do a lot of those things (especially if they involved a high shelf.)

And I would promptly say, “Sure, honey!”

And I would promptly forget.

Not just a little. An entire forget. There was no memory retrieval. The task became, entirely and thoroughly, dead to me.

It lived on with her, though. More than only living, it spoke to her. It would constantly tell her that it needed done. In turn, she would question if I would do it on my own or if she should nag me. This is a heavy decision for her to make. My wife is very normal; she most certainly doesn’t want to be a nagger.

After a week of this mental torture, she cannot look at me with the typical love and respect. The turmoil she has in her mind is absent in my mind while I’m blissfully ignorant of her pain. Who can blame me? I don’t even remember what she asked of me. I walk around smiling, oblivious!

And every day it gets worse. The gap widens and she gets further away from me. Then it snaps, an earthquake of emotions brings us back together. It isn’t comfortable.

Mind the Gap

The longer assumptions go unspoken and unresolved, the wider the gap grows. Eventually it will be an insurmountable chasm, full of resentment and annoyance. Obviously nobody wants that, except divorce lawyers. I finally learned that she was holding on to everything I forgot. Her emotions didn’t belong to just her, my forgetfulness and ineptitude were forces acting upon her.

When I realized that I was responsible creating a situation like this, suddenly not forgetting became much more important. I established patterns and hooks. This allowed me to follow through and be more reliable. She fortunately noticed almost immediately.

In the end, it didn’t feel like any extra work for me. In the beginning there was more effort; I had to figure out how to orient my actions to remember things I previously would have forgot. This is not a bad trait to develop. The organizational systems I’ve developed around the house have helped me be more organized in general, and in turn be more productive. That isn’t the most important win, though.

Above all, I no longer see that look of frustration in my wife’s eyes. It was replaced with the gaze of a partner, who worked with me to help me remember rather than resent me for forgetting.

Incidentally, last night she asked me to take the trash out and I promptly started coding a fix to something I saw in an app we’re building… because she left it open on her computer. Instead of being frustrated, she gently reminded me and then patted me on the back for the improvement.

Applying the Checklist Manifesto

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First off, I believe in checklists, so why am I reading?

Do I want to either confirm my understanding or increase my vocabulary to discuss the subject? I had to answer that before really starting into Checklist Manifesto.

This question started after I read the introduction to 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey explains his desire for the reader to proceed with the intention of explaining and teaching. To not simply agree or move beyond the concepts; instead absorb them to explain to someone else.

This simple technique has made a profound difference in how I read books. Especially if I think I may know the subject well. Checklist Manifesto widened my vocabulary. It bettered my ability to discuss and share why I think checklists are important. Primarily, it helped me to explore the very confusing encounters with people who resist checklists as if their soul depended on it.

Why is there resistance to checklists?

I’ve seen two reasons for resistance so far. One is quite innocent and grows from a flaw I possess. Disorganization! Checklists help but someone has to call the shots. Without someone, or something, to initiate the process it won’t get done. My morning has a checklist to it, but I still often times forget. This is ineptitude on my part. That ineptitude can create resistance. I do not want to fail so I kill the checklist.

The second reason is discussed by Dr. Atul Gawande through the book. These are the non-believers. The best reward of reading Checklist Manifesto was opening my mind, to seek and gain understanding about why people resist implementing checklists.

Before we can answer that, though, we have to talk about why checklists are important. Checklists are important because we fail. We make mistakes.

Two reasons we may fail: Ignorance or Ineptitude

Dr. Gawande very frankly describes how he sees mistakes. The root cause exists between Ignorance or Ineptitude. Ignorance is forgivable, mistakes caused from lack of knowledge. We cannot be expected to do better when we don’t know better. Ineptitude, however, is a different matter. With ineptitude, the knowledge exists and we know it, yet we fail to apply it correctly.

Checklists are designed to ensure ineptitude has limited impact. Ineptitude is not a permanent attribute, it is a momentary state. It can occur for a multitude of reasons, most importantly for very human reasons. The distractions, beliefs and stresses in the modern life could almost excuse ineptitude, except for the very real consequences of those mistakes.

When it’s life or death, or just life.

When mistakes happen, we remember some of these and react. Whether a surgeon loses a patient through mistakes and moments of ineptitude, or a plane goes down and hundreds of people die, there is a reaction to figure out what went wrong.

With airlines, checklists have emerged from the ashes and are now first-class features. These checklists have not stifled innovation. All evidence points to success. Sometimes the checklists are extremely terse, only a few items just to remember the really critical steps that are disastrous if overlooked.

Most importantly, checklists have evolved because we needed them. Because the world got too complicated.

The Master-Builder model is dead

We’ve complicated life and at the same time pretend it’s simple. We resist acknowledging our own limitations. We do this despite our failures to remember critical details. I believe we simply need to embrace the fact that the era of Thomas Young) and Joseph Leidy, people who were once labeled to “know everything” is over. We can’t even know how our cellphone turns on or the stitching is in our clothing. I didn’t know how a sewing machine worked. It’s still magic.

This is not a bad thing. Quite the opposite, even. This is a sign of progress. It’s time to embrace it, and in doing so, embrace the checklist and the very real need for collaboration. We can’t be expected to know everything. We have our areas of specialty, and others have theirs. We team up. We work together. We put men on the moon.

Dr. Gawande explores how checklists empower people and create a cohesive team.

Teamwork, Discipline and Leadership

If success is determined by a team that runs fluidly, has leadership but is free of condescension (something rare in operating rooms, it seems), then how can a checklist help?

It sounds very simple. The first item Dr. Gawande tackles on his Operating Room checklist is ensuring everybody introduces themselves and declares their roles. There is a lot of powerful psychology here. When someone states their roles verbally, they’re setting a precedent to continue speaking. Also, the listeners set a precedent to continue listening.

Just ticking boxes is not the ultimate goal here. Embracing a culture of teamwork and discipline is.

Something as trivial as formal introductions had huge impacts in how teams operated. However, without the checklist item, these introductions were quick to be forgotten. We cannot remember all the things all the time, nor learn all the things. Even when it’s as simple as introducing ourselves.

Checklists are not a crutch, they are maps with the dangers highlighted. We must embrace our limitations both in knowledge and discipline.

Discipline is uniquely human

No other creature on earth is able to be introspective. Humans are willing and able to contemplate existence, our failings and strengths and devise innovative ways to improve ourselves. More importantly, humanity is adept at creating reusable ways to improve others. Just as the Pilot’s Checklist moved into the Operating Room, it can move into any other industry.

Another inherent attribute is our adaptability. This is a prized trait, and many people in leadership roles or in any position of power would describe themselves as versatile, adaptable or innovative.

It stands to reason that the mention of a checklist goes counter to those attributes. Except we must look deeper at what the checklist is. The checklist is not about ticking boxes. It’s about being disciplined when success is at stake and putting our best efforts into our activities.

I can think of no worse failure than a failure caused by a critical, but easily forgotten step.

Resistance revisited

Why do we resist something as beneficial as a checklist? This question occurs throughout the book, and in the end is directly addressed but not answered.

I can speculate as to why, and in discussing the checklist and listening to reactions I believe I’m close to an answer. It’s not the right answer, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The immediate perception of a checklist is competitive.

It’s saying, “The checklist is better than you!”

It’s saying, “The checklist won’t forget, but you will!”

It’s saying, “The checklist can do your job, and you can’t.”

None of these are true, but that first impression prevails.

Book Notes: Art of Loving

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It’s not often that a book leaves me with no other choice than to put it down, sit back, stare at a wall and reflect. Art of Loving was that book. I found myself simply unable to continue. Countless times I would put it down, stand up and pace. This wasn’t happening because I agreed with the book or a new, powerful message. I was caught entirely off guard.

Art of Loving knocked me down. I got up. It knocked me down. Again and again. I also had no choice but to get back up and continue reading it. More profoundly is that it was written in 1956. It raises alarms against devaluing and automating works, multimedia over-consumption, celebrities that have no merit other than their ability to make the news, and most importantly about love is the very real, and happening, risks of mistaking feminism to mean same instead of equal.

Equality today means “sameness,” rather than “oneness.”

The book made a real and lasting impression on me, not only in the ideas conveyed but how much every day, and our habits, matter. It forces consideration of the ever-important question of what is the real and full impact of each action we take, and to be observant of that impact. It suggests how to even measure, but only vaguely.

… in spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered to be more important than love: success, prestige, money, power—almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving.

Everything is an activity we undertake. Love is an activity, not a feeling. Love requires work, effort and dedication. Whether we accept that and love consciously and deliberately makes all the difference. We must practice love like we practice any skill.

Love is an activity; if I love, I am in a constant state of active concern with the loved person…

I tell my children that practicing alone isn’t good enough, one must put their mind into it as much as their body. They must evaluate where they are, where they want to be and think of ideas to get there. The results in their performances validate this approach.

Man can only go forward by developing his reason, by finding a new harmony, a human one, instead of the prehuman harmony which is irretrievably lost.

Whether I am loving my wife, my children or the random person I encounter by chance, a deliberate practice of love is what makes me human. Animals (at least mammals) feel, even some feel and demonstrate affection. Animals cannot describe this feeling, that is a uniquely human trait. Animals cannot share their hopes and dreams, find partners in which to work with and support.

To be concentrated means to live fully in the present, in the here and now, and not to think of the next thing to be done, while I am doing something right now.

Fromm points out that the industrial revolution has expectedly turned us into automatons. We are now cogs in a vast machine. We are replaceable parts and an increasing population do jobs with little or no meaning. Many other modern books have expanded on this idea. Fromm puts this simply: We have moved from a Capitalistic Society to a Consumerist Society. No longer is the collective concern balanced growth; instead we are pushed towards consuming ever more, and working in whatever job that allows us to purchase more and more.

Modern man thinks he loses something—time—when he does not do things quickly; yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains—except kill it.

In Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi points out the internal problem with this structure: Without challenge and autonomy, we cannot get into Flow. Without being in flow, we cannot feel the deep, humanistic excitement and vigor that we, as humans, need. Instead, we feel empty and stressed out. We feel incapable of exerting the energy needed to practice loving.

The paradoxical situation with a vast number of people today is that they are half asleep when awake, and half awake when asleep, or when they want to sleep.

When we feel incapable of loving, or worse, to feel incapable of pursuing and achieving love we develop severe anxiety. Fromm states that experiencing separateness from other humans is the source of all anxiety. That is a bold declaration, and after reading the book I can’t say I disagree with him. After all, if we feel stretched too thin in our own lives, how can we possibly embrace someone else?

People whose main orientation is a non-productive one feel giving as an impoverishment.

Love is more complex, deeper than we typically give it credit. It is deeper than the sensual love between adults, and ddeper still than the unconditional as a mother and her child. This is a practiced love, which is extremely challenging. This love is not one that can created without effort. This love is something that requires education. This love is something that can be shared with everybody, without any cost to myself.

Which brings me to the most powerful statement I found in the book.

The opposite of education is manipulation, which is based on the absence of faith in the growth of potentialities…

I’ve always been very sensitive to the idea of manipulation, but never could describe what was the opposite of manipulation. Knowing that education is that opposite shows that while I wasn’t directly, or intentionally, being manipulative, in many moments I was definitely guilty.

At the end of this reading, I’m left with the following ideas to work towards:

  1. Focus on education, recognize the potential in every person.
  2. How I feel about strangers is a reflection of how I feel about my family and “loved ones”.
  3. Be mindful in every activity, especially those centered around feelings.
  4. Pursue the true spirit of Capitalism, to make and sell products I believe in that add value. This is how I can not only mature psychologically, but fight negative Consumerism.

September Failure

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I had aspirations to really stretch myself in September, but I chose something that I don’t think I cared much about. Or that I felt too much intimidation, or perhaps didn’t see the real tangible reward. I’m not sure. It was a challenge that I missed.

Each month I lay out specific challenges to push myself forward in life. These must align to the 5 areas of focus in my life.

September was posting 4 videos, centered around books. I completely failed. It would be hard to fail more than I failed. I certainly have excuses, some are even valid. Honestly, I could have succeeded. I simply didn’t.

I didn’t because it never felt important to me. August I posted something here every day. That felt important. July I built an application in 3 days and pushed it along through the month. That felt important. September had a lot of other important things happen. They felt important. Making videos didn’t.

This doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to do it. I like the idea, but it never felt important enough to actually do. I wrote out the outlines, but never went further. It fell apart when I had to compare against other things I was doing. This is the problem with challenges, and also what makes them so valuable.

These monthly challenges force me to balance and prioritize. They require me to change my daily routine and dedicate time to do things I wouldn’t otherwise do. This means not doing things I normally do. It requires that I evaluate all activities and ensure I’m not doing something merely out of a lazy habit.

So what’s next for October? It’s something more personal. I’m reaching out and trying to have one conversation with an interesting person every week. This has been a big obstacle for me in the past, and I need to move away from that. Hopefully this helps.

Power of Napping

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I have maintained a negative view of napping, unless you are under 8 years old. Then it’s a good thing, especially when it gives the parents a chance to enjoy some peace and quiet. I didn’t really have any evidence, except how I felt. Not very scientific.

My views on naps stemmed from my own inability to nap. I have certainly tried to nap, especially after having those magic sleep-deprivers known as children. I tried. I failed. When I didn’t it seemed almost luck. Obviously, this meant napping was unnecessary and stupid.

But I wasn’t set in my ways. When I stumbled across the subject of napping while reading Brain Rules my interest piqued. This was something I was categorically denying.

It’s hard to continue rejecting an idea after reading a quote like this:

a 26-minute nap improved a pilot’s performance by more than 34 percent.

To clarify, this is cognitive performance. That’s the type of performance I’m most interested in. Additionally the benefit lasted for several hours. This has been a huge problem for me, going back as far as I can remember. After about 7-8 hours of thinking, fatigue really creeps in.

Time to change

The first step was determining how to integrate this into my daily life. I don’t have a typical mid-day “slump” in which I get sleepy. After lunch I devote myself to manager time, mostly because I struggle to do anything more productive (in the sense of producing something).

I believe any time something new is to be tried, it should be planned and evaluated. I should have clearly defined expectations and also an idea on measuring the results. Measuring is very difficult, though. I’m feeling like I’m still guessing about it.

Up next is consistent trial and analysis. Fortunately this is easier. My typical schedule is working from 5:30am until around 2pm. Now I have blocked off 2:15 to 2:45pm each day for a nap. I think this type of consistency is important to accurately measure the results. The main question is to simply ask: Is my time after 3:00pm better? It has been.

This goes against everything that I am!

I prepared over the weekend for this, and fortunately my daughter got so sick neither my wife or I slept. This should have been prime napping preparation. I laid down, grabbed my Kindle and started to read waiting for some vague feeling of sleepiness to take hold. It didn’t. I didn’t nap.

I feel I wasted an opportunity and almost gave up on napping before I even started. Monday was the real test, and I felt I wanted to try it again but knew I needed to change my approach. I resisted the urge to bring my Kindle, laid down and closed my eyes. I did bring my phone, to listen to some birds chirping and the sounds of a river.

Shockingly, I fell asleep. I even fell asleep pretty quickly, but I had no concept of time. I woke at 2:45pm, with my daughter staring at me in perfect silence. Success!

And it felt good. But different.

I expected the nap to slice my day up. Perhaps like having two days in one, doubling my money. It doesn’t. It’s still the same day and the lumbering mental slowness is still present when I wake. But then my day changes.

The real difference came when I started to think about the tasks that I had laid out, whether to do the next day or just a wish list. As I ran through that list, a feeling of intense motivation crept over me and I found an item I must work on. This feeling persisted, and so far each day I’ve eagerly tackled more tasks.

I can’t wake up and start working. I can wake up and start thinking about what is important to me and what I want to get done. Eventually I’ll hit one that inspires me, and the nap has recharged me enough to tackle it.

This is giving me an extra 2 hours of near-prime mental energy each day, and that’s definitely worth the 30 minutes required to get it.

And the downsides…

I worried about how this would affect my schedule. I’m very structured and want to be in bed by 9:30pm and asleep by 10. Napping could disrupt this, which could throw me off for days. I’m a fragile sleeper.

So far it hasn’t. At 9pm I start to feel the pull towards bed, and at 9:30 I’m still ready to sleep. If this continues, I have a solid habit that I’ll be maintaining.

The real downside will be if I start working with people who aren’t on the East Coast or start working in a real office. I can’t imagine being successful in negotiating a napping pod, but I’ll definitely try.

August Retrospective

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People undertake challenges all the time. Sometimes they give things up and other times, like me through August, try to weave new habits into their daily routines. This is critical to me, as I enjoy to deliberately question the way I am spending my life.

A lot of this thinking started when I read Flow. It was truly a mind-opening experience for me. It offered conclusive proof that we continue activities we found enjoyable once, but only stay with them because of habit. Our enjoyment stops, but we continue!

I want to be constantly evaluate what I do. This has consistently allowed me to discover new things about myself and enjoy how I spend my time. It’s very naive to think I know myself well enough to know all my interests (or weaknesses). I also don’t believe that a single day, or even a week, trying something can be truly representative. It’s a base level of skill, and without competency I don’t feel I can judge. It struck me that a month seems perfectly reasonable to build competency.

In July, I wanted to test my ability to publicize a product I built and do it over a holiday weekend. I expected that I could build an app in 3 days, but also launch. This meant coming up with a marketing plan, verification and a plan to continue running and promoting the product. The latter are things I’ve consistently been bad at, and while I got better I’m still in the “bad” category.

My challenge for August was a little easier, but a lot longer. It was a marathon of writing and publishing, something I also struggle with.

Publishing Every Day: Victory!

I have a very solid writing habit. I however struggle to publish. I write, re-write, edit, hide it in the drafts and move on. What I publish doesn’t even correspond to quality; I often times publish entries I don’t find particularly good while I often rework those I like but never release.

I needed to remind myself that this is a blog, it’s informal and it’s a place for me to start conversations. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

I figured 31 days of very unperfect writing would help build that habit. And it absolutely did. I won’t publish every day, but I feel much better about quickly forming a post throughout the day and writing it in a way that I can get it out. I also learned it’s ok to put stuff out that still feels fuzzy or off, because it’s also ok to take something I wrote a while ago and re-write it.

A new challenge

A very large part of this effort is identifying weaknesses and exploring them. I’m not expected to solve them but simply to better understand them.

I’m a firm believer that the best way to explore a weakness is by coupling it with a strength. Similar to the way that tiny habits can build up, I want to connect a challenge to an existing behavior that I enjoy.

This month I finished up the editing of a video where I discussed Premortems. I had a lot of fun writing the script, reworking it, filming with my wife. The hardest part was just like publishing anything I write. Putting something that I find interesting out into the world is massively uncomfortable.

I have a great backlog of notes, highlights and thoughts on a series of books, so my challenge
 for September is to produce 4 videos. Rather than a book review, I want to record the take-aways from each book and also how it relates to others.

This one will be hard and potentially the most time consuming because the video editing process is so unfamiliar. However, I think it will be the most fun to date (out of 2, not setting that bar high).

Thanks for being on my August Challenge with me, and I look forward to continue writing here with greater frequency.

Building an Experience

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A while ago I invited my yoga instructor out for coffee and to just chat. I wanted to ask her how she ran her classes, identified struggling students (and exemplary students).

I was very surprised at the conversation. Many of her issues were incredibly similar to the challenges I’ve experienced developing software products. At first I thought this was that I have these problems, it seems everybody else does (Availability Heuristic.) Just like after you buy a car, you notice how many are on the road.

As I listened to her more, and more important to her discuss methodology and how she understands the class, my concerns about being biased faded away. She’s selling a tangible service, certainly, rather than a software product but what she is creating is an experience her students go through each class.

That experience is why she’s successful and why I go to her, and rarely to other teachers.

Her classes aren’t for everyone though, and part of her struggle is finding the students she is compatible with. She must pairthe experience she offers with those who want it, and that isn’t always obvious.

There’s another well-known and respected yoga teacher in the area. I’ve never even taken his class, but just by watching I knew it isn’t for me. That’s ok, there isn’t anything wrong with him or the class, it’s a simple incompatibility.

Building a great product or a service is really about building an experience. If you read Purple Cow you can be encouraged to think that the audience you want is out there. I certainly believe it is, but that encouragement is going to start having fear creep in.

It’s the fear that I’m missing an opportunity. It’s loss aversion, thinking if we extend ourselves, or add more features and bells and whistles we’ll get more people.

In the end, we’ll drive away those who we relate to and still not appeal to the people we try to reach. Stay true, deliver the experience you want to deliver, and don’t think that anything is lost.

An audience isn’t being lost, an experience is being gained.

Work-Life Integration

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Jerry Colonna said it best:

Work-Life Balance is Bullshit

The unhappiest moments in my life coincided perfectly with making the most money in my life. It isn’t that I’ve had a rosy life, or that money is bad. It’s that to get that money was encompassing myself. It was all.

This seems like a trivial problem, but happiness is more important. I would have given it up to be happy, but I didn’t know how to make that exchange. I did know how to work and bury the feelings in exchange for a paycheck. In fact, I didn’t even know why I was so unhappy.

I worked. A lot. When I wasn’t working, it was late at night. I didn’t really drink, hated clubs (still do) so I took up playing pool. I didn’t even really like pool. Your options are limited when you stay at work that late.

I still loved what I did so I felt entirely willing to make these decisions and trade-offs. I was young so I thought I balanced it pretty well, until that one day. That one moment I woke up and realized the balancing act is all bullshit. This happened to be the day after I found out the company I was working for was closing their doors.

I did what any young, sane, rational person would do. I packed up and moved to a randomly chosen city. The benefit of earning so much and living so little is that I had financial flexibility. It made me feel invincible, which I often confused for happiness.

What followed were not the darkest years of my life, instead they were the years in which I finally opened my eyes and realized how much of a mess I was. That’s a big hit to take, and I fought against accepting it.

There is one person who I credit for getting me through long enough to meet my wife. He was my Best Man, and his toast touched on my obvious inner struggled but that he always believed I would “be alright”. It was the best speech that could have been given.

I wanted to be more than alright, obviously. This took years, even after being married. Slowly my base level of unhappiness faded away. Through any of this I don’t think I was depressed, just deeply unhappy. I was still motivated, eager, ambitious. Just very unhappy and it stemmed from this feeling that everything was out of balance, that everything was competing. I didn’t want to compete anymore.

The first step was to get a job I truly felt aligned with my interests. So I quit and did that and it helped. For a bit.

Then I thought I should get a job where I was amongst good friends. So I quit and did that and it helped. For a bit.

Then I didn’t know what to do next. Everything was still out of balance. Work made life stressful. My life was beautiful, I had two kids now, and for no good reason my work was ruining it! It competed with what I wanted to do, with what I felt compelled to do.

I realized that my work and life needed to be integrated, not balanced. I can’t compete with “work”, it will always win. Work doesn’t care.

It’s been a year and a half now since I’ve practiced this integration. While it’s sometimes scary it’s not unhappy. It’s still work and there are individual items that need to find their place.

It’s a long road and it, like all things, requires constant investment and attention. I’m happy to pay these dues, because I know the alternative.

I Want to Want To

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Taking inspiration and life lessons from a romantic comedy may not be a winning strategy, but I did. I don’t really like to admit it, so instead I’ll just go into the lesson.

It’s very easy to do the things we want to do. It’s slightly harder to do the things we must do. There is a whole category of things we should do, and these are very difficult.

The shoulds could also be called “Top Failed New Years Resolutions”. Universally accepted good things that don’t get done. But I want to do them! Well, maybe I don’t.

I want to want to do them.

That is a direct psychological shift to my behavior, though. It isn’t getting more done, being more productive or even building productive and awesome habits. It is changing and increasing the internal drive to do the things I should do, even when I don’t want to.

I don’t have any solutions, but I do have a list of things I want to transform my perceptions about. My hope is that by listing them I can see them more clearly, identify with what’s stopping me and maybe discovery they’re just not important and I don’t need to do them.

I want to want to…

  1. Keep a neater office, not just a desk.
  2. Play more games with the kids.
  3. Feel better about “marketing” myself and my work.
  4. Feel more comfortable letting others help.
  5. Be more social, go to more meetups, network more.
  6. Learn about writing great stories.
  7. Be motivated to take Earn 1K style courses.
  8. Resume drawing again.
  9. Read non-fiction.
  10. Meditate more and push myself to it.
  11. Learn more about user interfaces and designs.
  12. Stop developing so much and focus on higher level work.

That seems like a good start. There’s so much more, and so much more I don’t need to do. Life is short and I’ve always felt it’s more important to do the things I enjoy and naturally want, as long as I’m not feeling penalized. Now I worry that I don’t know what those things could unlock, as I found when I started studying social psychology.

The world is so big, so vast, spending every day doing the same things that we wanted in the past doesn’t mean we’re doing what we want to do now, it’s just a rut. Now I’m going to see more about item 2.

The Most Difficult Question

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Someone asked me a question which completely stumped me. I was totally one of those kids that the teacher ignored because I knew the answers, regardless of how high my hand was raised. I don’t like being stumped, but here I was, completely befuddled. The question wasn’t even hard:

How can I help you?

This was in connection with The Daily Practice, my app I built to track daily activities on the pursuit of a better life. And I have no answer. Yes, I do want help! That wasn’t what I was asked. I was asked how and I had no answer.

Why are they asking?

Since I couldn’t answer that question, I think about related questions that may help. What do they want out of helping me? Do they want to just make it better? What skills do they have that push them to offer?

A better way of looking at this is to look at the person. Who are they, what are they interested in and ultimately what are they hoping to accomplish in their life? This is a more interesting question, because what I really want to discover is how we can help each other.

What are my needs?

The next question is more self-centered. Sure, I’d love to figure out how to not pay for TDP operations out of my own pocket. That isn’t a big deal, though. What do I really need? If I find a magic lamp, complete with a genie what would my 3 wishes be?

My fear is that I don’t know what I need. Especially because someone offering to help is not me, they are them. Because they are them, they know things I don’t even know I don’t know. They know my unknowns, so maybe they should tell me what I need! But this is a cop out.

What I need is, again, to get to know them. To talk about them, to hear what excites them and let the conversation evolve. It will emerge what I need the most if I stop and listen, and give space for people to express what they are passionate about doing.

Is it fair to get help?

But do I deserve it? Do I deserve their help? Their time? It’s much easier to accept money from someone than their time, because time is exhausted and cannot be replenished.

Do I believe I am creating value, creating time and helping others? Yes, of course I do. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be spending my time doing it. If I believe this, then I believe I deserve someone’s time and energy to help me. It still is hard to accept this, impostor syndrome weighs heavy on my mind.

It isn’t fair to dictate to them how to help me, to assign tasks and expect them to just do them. It isn’t fair to try to manipulate someone into doing things they don’t want to do or see completed. It is fair to discover where our goals and ambitions align, and collaborate to make them a reality.

Better for everybody

There is a lot of merit to having a Values First company. It doesn’t conflict with the notion of seeking profit at all. In this effort, TDP isn’t a company. It’s a tool I built, but I do want to keep the idea open that maybe someday it is a company. Maybe it is profitable. Maybe it has employees.

Until that day, accepting an offer of help doesn’t hurt me or them. Even as I write this I struggle to accept it. I need to delegate and let things go. I know I’ll be fair, respectful and appreciative of any help I get.

In the end, I want TDP to be the best product it can be. I want people to feel they’ve contributed, because I enjoy contributing.

I need to learn the right answer to a simple question, and I think writing this put me one step closer.