Giving Thanks

Right now, I would love to be asleep, but there are construction crews working a priority repair and I have this nagging cough… so jack hammers are at full blast at 2:45AM, and I am singing harmony with them using “cough counterpoint”; however, this is a “first world” problem. It’s not like I don’t have a bed, or fresh water, or a toilet. I have all that, and much more…so, a sleepless night – heck, some people would dream of being able to have a sleepless night where I am!

2013 has been quite a year.  A lot of things have happened and some can be posted on a blog, and some of it cannot! Bottom line is that I am truly thankful for what this year has brought.  I have been brought many gifts: time with family, good memories with friends, some solid career progress, a focus on balance and health, renewed energy towards goals which have been pushed aside for years, and renewed focus on achieving those goals.   I have been brought many challenges: family members I am going to visit in person, rebuilding my life when certain plans didn’t go how I thought they would, overcoming the loss of people near and dear to me, and pulling myself off the cross I created.

That last one is probably the most important.  For all my levels of introspection (and I do count myself as highly introspective) that was still another layer of self-sabotage that I had to crush this year.  Nobody cares about my crosses, nobody cares if I nail myself to them and whine and complain about how painful they are…  There are many rules of engagement I have generated over the years.  Some of them are good, but some of them create patterns that hold me back.  I’ve been re-scripting those. Then, even worse, there was my tendency to make OTHER people’s crosses MINE.  Like I would be helping them if I did that? Welcome to the “classic enabler.” The line between enabling someone else and helping them is sometimes very fuzzy – especially if that help is expanded incrementally over time.   I haven’t done it a lot, but there have been a few key places where I practiced this pattern – picking up other people’s crosses when the best thing I could do is let them build their strength and resolve by just coaching them instead!

Live and learn as they say! I am squashing unhealthy patterns – I am erasing negative self-talk, erasing unhealthy self-imposed rules, I am done making other people’s problems MY problems. Dunzo! I might need to clarify that a little more. I’m talking about the practice of making other people’s individual issues my individual issues; supplanting the priorities of my life with someone else’s priorities at the expense of achieving my aspirations. I still might assist with someone else’s priorities, but it will be because it furthers the goals that I have in place.  Another example, there’s a billion people that do not have a bathroom.  If I choose to accept the challenge of solving that problem, I already know I am not contacting one of the billion, making their bathroom problem MY problem and then building them a bathroom. They’d have a bathroom, but wouldn’t know how to maintain it, and then they would be mad at me when it broke or blame me if there was a problem with it… see how that enabling thing works? Unhealthy I say!!  In this particular example, there would be strategy, like researching how to best have their home country tackle the project from both an educational and infrastructure perspective. Yes, education is a huge reason why building bathrooms is a “waste” of time (oh, that was definitely “potty” humor): Governments must be teaching people WHY bathrooms are important (health), and teaching a workforce how to build/maintain bathrooms (plumbing, parts, water/sewage systems, etc).

Anyway, I could go on and on (surprise).  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone  – and hopefully, in the near future, I will be doing more to make this little blue orb a more effective place for everyone.  I will probably be writing more about that soon, but note the key word is “probably.”  Even with renewed focus, I have found life is ever-changing and the best plans must bend instead of break. Sometimes the shortest distance between two points is a curve, anyway.  It just depends on the terrain, and viable methods of reaching the destination. That’s the 50,000 foot view of 2013 and it is an amazing view, whether plotted as a line or a curve!

Back to Goals

Our Planet is so gosh-dangly fragmentalized.  Unless I want to become a robot (not saying I don’t but let’s ride on the pretense that being a robot is not on the to-do list), pursuing 1 clear cut goal is really obnoxiously difficult.  Why is that?… I am yet again so glad you have asked.

It all restarted this year, in this post, culminating in an approach that I attempted to follow for several months.  Each time I would try to make progress, I found myself clicking on the little magnifying glass and drawing a zoom box so I could get to a quantifiable set of tasks.  But each time I drew a zoom box I kept finding more questions and options and little informational sidebars that kept fragmenting the vision…. by the time I had zoomed in enough to DO something, it wasn’t anything I was interested in doing.

So, here I am on Hallow’s eve with a metaphorical zoom box, a primed legal container, and having to revisit my entire approach.  It’s been a fascinating journey, but something still hain’t quite right.

To help correct this, I have to come to terms with a couple core concepts: 1) I am not a detail person and 2) that first statement is a lie.  If I can figure that out, then I will have $10,000,000 of net worth by the end of this calendar year.  There’s my vested interest in figuring this out.

Let’s go over some of the fun to be had, here… for example, I have an interest in natural resources.  Now, before I get into natural resources, I tell myself,”self, the first question to ask is ‘how much do we have’ and the next question to ask is ‘what’s our current and projected burn rate?’  Try Googling that… my search on global natural resources lead me to a list of oil companies, a list of government agencies, several wikipedia articles, to some outdated EDU site with a list of resources that was a 404 landmine.  There’s a TON of information, but it isn’t aggregated how I want to look at it.  In fact, this takes me back to the TED talk (yeah, do I get royalties for that? lol) about web 3.0 – if we could get at the data of the internet in a useful way, I might be able to visualize at least SOME of what I am looking for…  I say some, because there are entities who have spent a LOT of money cataloging what I want to research, and, well, what’s in it for them if they share?  I’ll tell you – the competition will come in and, with lower R&D costs caused by the release of the initial company’s intellectual property, they will wipe the initial company off the financial map.

Maybe then, my data won’t be out there…because that’s just the FIRST set of questions.  Anywho, if you know of an entity that compiles natural resource statistics such as quantity, location, burn rates, that might come in handy for me… or somebody I will employ.  Just throwing that out there – my core interests are water, power, fiber, farm land, and sanitation.

There – that was an example of a “zoom box”… I had to zoom in to do the research, and I have had that happen over and over.  The result is, it fragments my time and progress slows to a crawl on my goals because while I am zoomed in, there is no progress on the other fronts.

Robert Kiyosaki, as part of his cashflow quadrant concept, mentioned this issue of going from an employee to a specialist… it could be a trap, and the way out of a trap is a business model so I can get from business owner to investor, because until I have a portfolio of crazy ventures cranking out results, I am not going to make the kind of progress needed to fix the entire planet and launch a viable space exploration venture using giant robots shaped like our founding fathers.  Can you imagine that…on some distant world, the receiving civilization sees a giant Teddy Roosevelt flying through space towards their planet. Hey, it could happen!!

I have no interest in being the specialist anymore…I’ve been there, bought the t-shirt, scraped off the bumper sticker, and moved on.  There’s a lot of talented people who want to be the specialist, and I am OK with that!  My goal is to hire a team of those and put them to work solving all kinds of cool challenges.

Of course, while doing that I am still working on a video project, a web service architecture, a mobile app and a couple other side projects… but hey, stay tuned.

Goal Setting Across Space Time

Defining “my way” has been an exercise I undergo every 6 – 12 months as I plot a course from one interesting chapter to another in my life.  I could (and probably will) write a book just about that last sentence, but this time, my goal setting has been challenged – in a positive way.  Challenged to the very core (and even the concepts behind the definition of the “core” itself).  It’s lead me to a very interesting, comfortable and yet highly chaotic and disruptive state of mind.  My blog tag is “chaotic everywhere like me” so, I am generally OK with chaos. I also like order – when applied in way I find agreeable. Somewhere between order and chaos, I usually find some small, medium and large goals to work towards.  Then, in some twist of anti-Coveyist logic, I do all the small goals, get partially through the medium goals and wake up 5 years later wondering why I am not a rock star (I usually write polkas on the flute-a-phone, but it should be spontaneous transition, I would think).

So along comes this challenge. And I have been thinking about goals in the context of this challenge to figure out what I need to do to move forward on my larger goals in a more quantitative way (accepting that fluidity and chaos are part of the mix).  Today, I found a partial answer to that question.

It started with a physical therapy appointment.  There were a lot of little things that made today’s journey interesting, starting with a cup of coffee and really good conversation. Then I hit the road-zen just right on the way to the appointment, from work all the way up to skidding just right into the parking space on the roof of the garage. Unexpectedly, there was a funky solicitor at the doctor’s office selling diet bars with a thick English accent and leaning his whole body across the counter, and then, in some strange twist on Jungian consciousness, my doctor greeted  me with an English accent.  A good start to the day.

But something kinda interesting and cosmic bubbled up as I drove back to work.  Like so many other thought-bubbles, it wasn’t anything completely new.  However, repetition has a way of making things more valuable or less valuable depending on context and perception.  Today’s context and perception – my position in the spiral of my life – definitely made this re-realization more valuable. I thought to myself: All things in the universe are connected (some don’t believe in that view, but I do…the asymptotic curve of magnetism alone was enough for me) and as such, I am a part of everything from the dinosaur bits that have made it to the molten core of this planet, to the ancient galaxies getting ripped apart by black holes on the edge of the universe. I am party to and directly connected with everything that exists and everything that is being imagined and pretty much even the things that are not.

Thinking like that really puts goal-setting to the test.  Our society pumps goal setting as a key to efficiency and achievement, and I don’t necessarily disagree.  But in the face of the cosmos, it is moot whether my goal is to write a blog post or rule the known galaxy – neither of those things are really a blip on the radar for something like the universe.  Kinda drives home the point: life is short, make sure you spend your time your way!

Somewhere between this blog post and ubiquitous and incontestable control of the known and unknown universe is the path I will choose, but ultimately, regardless of my choice… it is completely my choice. And when I look at how big the universe is, and my tendency to think big and want to accomplish large things, I have to ask myself… what is it about “big” things that are important to me? Now that I have demonstrated how small even the biggest accomplishment is in the face of nature, how important it is to do something I perceive as “big?”  The truth, it isn’t important unless I make it important, and until today, my big ideas just have not been that important to me – I have chosen other ways to spend my time.

Now, I have done all these cool little soul-searching exercises before – 7 Habits, personality profiles, career exams,  money management books/seminars, etc.  And from that training I have applied various plans to my life to achieve cool stuff for my employer, cool stuff for other people, and even some decently engaging projects for myself… but nothing big. Yet, when I look at what I say are my biggest goals, they are huge, substantive accomplishments that most people would argue cannot be completed in a lifetime. In truth, I have only shared facets of those goals – and when I do, the usual reaction is people will believe I can hit some of the marks, or even better, some people just say I need to come back to planet Earth and be realistic about what is possible.

Let’s look at some of these things: I was going to build my own version of the space shuttle, I thought about ways to build better robots, about ways to enable video on demand, about several different types of video games, countless movies/cartoons/skits, songs, short stories, photo journals, monolithic dome and sustainable housing projects, fixing issues with homelessness, broadening the scope of acceptable medicine, bio-engineering (with a focus of transferring learning directly from one brain to another), developing true artificial intelligence, reworking government across the planet, natural resource management, urban and commercial architecture, building a functioning worm hole without destroying our planet by accident,  converting Earth itself to a space craft so we aren’t dependent on this solar system, bringing back the power of village-based trade and agriculture using the power of the internet, keeping knowledge truly unbiased and using that as the foundation for immersive education and work environments, meeting our extraterrestrial neighbors, raising the bar on our species by getting rid of stupid economic systems that enable self-oppression, maybe a couple paintings, and at least some form of origami, a cool death ray (hey, not every critter in the universe as as sweet and nice as us hoomanz) and shields – everyone needs those… the list really could go on for a while more, and some of the stuff, in due time has actually been invented – and improved upon what I initially thought it could do.  And it isn’t about being original – I know there are other people thinking the same things, and even better, there are other people actually making accomplishments on these things. What matters is, when people ask what kind of future I want to be a part of, what kind of projects interest me, these are the types of things I want to engage.  These are things I would choose…

So, I show people a list like that, and they flap their arms in the air and say it is impossible. No, it is certainly not impossible and I have no interest in restricting my dreams to fit the definition of somebody else’s “possible.” Hmph!!

But, as you can see, it will take quite a network to put all this in motion.  I started saying maybe networking comes first, then I thought maybe I should start a company and use the income from that to build a portfolio.  But those approaches will be too slow.  I need something faster… and today, when I realized I was connected to everything… today, when I was told facing my bed north-south to align with the poles would improve energy flow, today was when I realized all of this is very possible – because it is all being done already.  I just need the right entity, the right little “engine that could”, the right network, and the right plan…and can plug into all of it.  That’s what I will have by Monday.

Beginning Without the End in Mind

Ah, yes. Steven Covey.  A name that is near and dear to many of us in theory, and to fewer of us in practice.  Proof positive that a horse can be lead to better habits, but will often instead, choose to drink.  Here I am again, then. Round 3,755, maybe.  I lost count in the 90s, but there is certainly a multibillion dollar industry in self-help and reinvention propaganda.

This year, I made this kind cool plan that was centered around starting a media company.  Some people I talk to say, “Wow, man, that’s so totally flippin’ awesome, man.”  Other people are not so interested.  And then there is another group that thinks I haven’t defined my goals enough in order to be successful.  I grouped them in teams, gave them all statistical calculators and told them to find the T Statistic for sharpness in cheddar cheese flavors by brand. The group who said my goals needed more defining won this challenge…although I can’t really prove it because the first two groups shrugged their shoulders and walked away, and the third group calculated a value that I can’t verify because I don’t know statistics.

As a result, I redid my 2013 plan. After that, the same group said there were no details behind the high-level plan, so I created some specific tasks to support the plan.  After that, the same group said my plan and my tasks did not support a clear enough goal.  After that, I changed my plan so that my top level goal was to build an epic death ray. I don’t really care if I build a death ray, but it makes the top level goal very clear for those who care about a top level goal.

But it begs the question: Is a top level goal required in order to be effective? I have a recast plan that ends with the production of approximate 20 teams, each with a specific purpose that supports a combination of sustainable housing technology, media production, and technical systems that not only glue together my business model but can likely be shrink-wrapped and resold.  The sustainable housing is for Project Sahara. The media production is for the media container, with a focus on entertainment production.  The technical piece is not only for building the systems with my two entities, but there should be some components that can be packaged and resold.

I’m pretty stoked about it.  However, if you look closely, the “end in mind” is more of a beginning than an end.  Sorta like we are beginning with the beginning of the next set of projects in mind.  Sahara will need these systems, CamAm, Sring, Pajorka and all my other containers will need these systems.  Containers I don’t even know about yet will need these systems (and the people that helped create them).  I guess this means I am either beginning with the beginning in mind, or beginning with the middle in mind… since the end is malleable in this case.

For some people the end is clear.  For me the journey is shaping the end. As new information becomes available, I renegotiate the end: I might stop at CamAm.  I might drop it and lock step on a venture I never even dreamed about. What’s important is that I progress from where I am today.  That’s my take on it for now, anywho.  We shall see – maybe I will change my mind soon.