Making My Goals More Useful For Another Year

Inertia is hard to overcome; sustained change hard to enact.

That’s what I used to think at least, and that’s what we’ve been trained to think when it comes to personal change. The pendulum swings to this from irrational optimism over how this year will be different, how this year you have what you didn’t last: the Plan.

The Plan is that list that you make when you feel the need for change. You think “Hey, if I’m going to start a new business, I’m going to finally take those classes too, and finish that book, and go back to the gym, and eat better foods…” and on, and on. The Plan is the master list of everything that will be right with your life when you move from step one to two to three on an ordered path, and the only reason that you didn’t make salads for dinner before is because you didn’t have it written down here, for the world to see. But are those the things that you even want to do? Why?

Tim Urban discussed this on his amazing blog Wait But Why in the series in which he discusses Elon Musk, Cooks vs Chefs, and the power of uncovering first principles by asking why. He discusses the bottom floor of standard reasoning, the “Because I said so” mentality that is trained in from asking the question of why too many times. This puts a limit on how far your reasoning can go, when the basic assumptions that you start with end up being based on flawed models. Why do I want to complete this project? Because that person will maybe notice? Why?

I’m starting on another year of life, and I’ve made a great number of changes throughout the past year, but they have had less to do with a master plan (though I am guilty of writing these out from time to time) and more to do with tackling goals that are broken into smaller steps, one at a time.

This post isn’t supposed to be all about promises, kept or not. A few more things that have stuck out for me over the past year:

  • I did a fair amount of traveling, though only in the US thi syear, and not as much as some years prior. This includes Miami, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale in Florida, as well as Atlanta, Washington DC, NYC, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis. I’m looking to revisit most of these places this year, as well as a vacation to California to knock another one of the goals off of my list.
  • I spoke at a variety of conferences in most of those cities, including several WordCamps, BarCamps, meetups, and php[world]. I’m a big believer in sharing and learning through teaching, and am working on improving my public speaking skills.
  • I’ve successfully kept out of the 27 club
  • I kept myself gainfully employed while goofing off, and am working on strengthening my business.
  • I launched a newsletter to tackle another short term goal, and to help as a stepping stone to a mid-length goal that I created for myself a few years ago.
  • I started a new maintenance service for clients not requiring full site work, with the intention of offering resources to businesses of all sizes. Check out SiteHealthy, and if you know someone in need of the service, let us know and we’ll pay for the referral :)
  • I led WordCamp Orlando for the last time, passing the reins to Lisa Melegari, who has been instrumental in keeping the event going the past few years and keeping me sane even longer.

I’m sure there’s more that I missed, and one of those goals that I spoke of is learning to keep track of things better (solving it in developer fashion with a plugin that’s launching next week). I’m looking forward to a bright and active 28, with lots of projects that I hope to share, both in the show-and-tell sense, as well as the freely distributed sense. GPLv3 and CC FTW!

Do you have any new or old goals that you’re working on maintaining this year? Leave a comment, see if we can work on them together!

That Time That I Lived On The Internet

One of the things that I want to do is get better at producing content, and I’ve started a few projects to do just that in 2016. The first is a weekly newsletter for interesting stories about internet culture that I curate, the impetus of which I share below.


Reposted from the launch post for This Week in Web

I live on the internet. What some in the past would have said is to an unhealthy degree, even. Fewer people say that these days though, and not just because I make my living with the internet, necessitating a fair amount of engagement there.

Clifford Stoll has already been picked on quite a bit, as the two decades since he shot down the idea of human contact becoming meaningful on the internet (and indeed the idea of meaningful anything on the internet), has been proven quite decidedly wrong. Even Clifford himself has acknowledged this, but you cannot blame him for that view at that time. Surely we cannot expect that the large machines that we are forced to interact with in the office, jealously guarded by the esoteric knowledge of the smug class known as “The IT Department”, connecting to other large machines via the arcane mysticism of many a bearded sysadmin would fundamentally revolutionize the way that we live, work, and play.

But the revolution has indeed come, and we’re all currently feeling the effects of it. The struggle with what the internet does to us, as both individuals and as society, is ongoing and unrelenting. It seems unthinkable to suggest that the average person in a developed nation could depart from the internet, to the point that the UN has suggested that unimpeded access to the internet should be a universal right.

This newsletter is an extension of my interests concerning the internet, and how it has changed how we think about the world and each other. Expect stories about internet subcultures, digitally mediated interaction, and the political and legal battles surrounding all of this. I dig around constantly for interesting stories concerning the internet, and will surface the most interesting finds every week via the newsletter.

Do you have anything that you think I’d find interesting? Share it so I can include it!

Here’s to 2015!

It’s time for reflection! I’m home a bit sick today, but still scrambling to prepare for a new year. Go figure, I’m a day late on this. Like last year, I’m not going to focus on very specific resolutions though I’ve got a few things to work on in January. Some of this is a direct outgrowth of my personal growth planning workshop (that I would suggest all of yall undertake).

One of my largest undertakings this year was in education. I finally registered at UCF to begin a second bachelor’s degree, and I’m working my way through the early classes now. It turns out that with a BA very few classes carry over to a BS, go figure. That means I’ve got a few freshman level classes mixed in with later classes for the first few semesters, which I suppose is a useful – albeit costly – ramp up. This and online courses dominated my formal and semi-formal education for the year, and it’s going to be interesting to see how I balance that and work in the coming years. At the rate that I’m taking courses it’ll probably still take me the four years to finish. I sometimes look at my plan and think that by the time I finish it’ll be a lot of money spent and being behind on knowledge again, but I keep reminding myself that if I don’t start now I’ll have the same complaint about being behind next year, only worse.

I also started being more open and direct, as I’d felt that I was a bit more passive-aggressive in my dealings in the past, or haven’t been as clear when I’m having an issue, and hoping that things smooth themselves over without direct action. Turns out that they don’t generally, so I started stating cases for some reasons I don’t accept most partner offers, or why the general request to sign NDA’s that I receive in cold emails come improperly and don’t make business sense for me. I also worked on setting expectations with teams, a skill that I’m working on heavily still.

I continued involvement with WordPress Orlando, and stepped down as lead organizer of WordCamp after my third run at it and fourth year of involvement in the group. I don’t plan on leaving though, and the team has already started sprinting ahead on WordCamp Orlando 2016. The meetup group is going to be my main focus this year, especially putting on workshops to help people build businesses with WordPress.

WordCamp Orlando 2016 Stage

I continued to watch lots of movies, both of the entertainingly satisfying type, as well as plenty of documentaries. I do want to write about what I read and watch more than I do now as a form of self-reflection, but this year I at least wrote about several movies about technology that reflected my views on digital privacy, rights to free speech, and some of the issues with the outmoded Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that still holds too much sway. I also enjoyed yet another Miyazaki film, and wrote about what ‘The Wind Rises’ means to me about passion.

Also, a few weeks ago I finally wrote an imperfect form of a post that had been rattling around in my head since season two of Bojack Horseman came out, and I devoured it over the weekend of its release. Turns out I can be deeply affected by a cartoon. Maybe I need to focus more on consuming media that moves me to action?

Bojack Horseman – Silly Cartoons Are For Adults Too

Last week I started watching Netflix’s ‘Bojack Horseman’ with my parents. A friend who worked on the show suggested it when season one came out. While it took me a few episodes to get into it, Bojack quickly became one of my favorite shows of the summer, which was repeated this year when I watched the second season three times in the first two weeks that it came out.

What is it about these adult cartoons that make them so captivating? The medium has been handling adult themes since it’s inception, but we still view most animation as geared toward children. Maybe it’s the subversion of a supposedly immature medium by adult characters who are more immature than Spongebob, Pokemon, or My Little Pony. Maybe it’s the puerile acts of Archer, Bojack, Peter Griffin and the like in a format that has been marketed as puerile from birth.

Whatever it is, I can’t get enough of the antics of Horseman and his friends. There’s a certain way I can relate to the titular character and his companions. I’ve never been a multimillionaire sitcom star living in a mansion overlooking Hollywood Hills. Granted, I’ve also never been a horse, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t find some part of myself in him. See the next two images and judge me accordingly:

Bojack Horseman Ate All of the Muffins

Bojack Horseman and Princess Carolyn

What really has me hooked though isn’t the lack of self control and self esteem, but the way that all of the characters find their own ways to cope with the world around them. While the common idea of LA being a place of constant grind and hustle wearing people down exists, that’s not what’s going on here. These characters generally appear to stumble into good fortune and work at every turn, even against their lack of effort. So what is it that is so hard?

Bojack is regularly drunk, while his TV daughter is a washed up pop star who is the show’s take on Lindsay Lohan and other child stars trying to exist in a world that wanted them for what they represented, not what they really were. His agent, Princess Caroline, tries to balance her own wants with the demands of her high paced job, best displayed in the dismal ending of season one’s “Say Anything”. Todd is generally blissfully ignorant, but clearly has family issues that he’s trying to resolve with the surrogate family that surrounds him, and Diane can’t resolve the fact that everything that she thought that she wanted isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be.

The show doesn’t shy away from the inner lives of it’s ensemble stars. Even the eternal optimist, Mr. Peanutbutter, has moments of doubt, but ones that he never shows to anyone else. I can imagine this character having a lot more going on than he lets on to the outside world, even to his wife, Diane.

Mr. Peanutbutter and Diane

Vulture called Bojack Horseman “The Funniest Show About Depression Ever“, which I find fairly accurate. The characters are a more realistic take on clinical depression and general malaise than I’ve seen elsewhere, while showing that being depressed can have light moments too, and isn’t just constantly moping around (though there’s plenty of that in the show, too).

Bojack Horseman on Shower Crying

There is some smart storytelling here. Even throwaway jokes end up returning as brick jokes later, like the broken bed frame and Gabe the Fire spreading out across two seasons. I can only imagine what animalized celebrity will come back in season three, or which visual gags from the most recent season will end up having larger story implications.

The final takeaway that I have is how throughout it all, Bojack and his friends clearly want to be better. They may stumble and make mistakes and lean on what they’ve already known and comes easily, but moments of clarity come out that can be heart breaking. The show has made these deeply flawed characters entirely relatable and makes me feel like I want to become a better person too.

It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That's the hard part. But it does get easier.

It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.

Four Things ‘The Wind Rises’ Taught Me About Passion

Last night I rewatched ‘The Wind Rises’, an animated biopic about the early life of Jiro Horikoshi. Mr. Horikoshi was an engineer who designed airplanes, most notably the Zero Fighter infamously used by Japan during WWII. Like another Jiro that I wrote about two years ago, he had dreams of his work that led him to his passions.

There were many negatives to Jiro’s work (which he famously acknowledged), as well as a long list of lives affected or ended by his creations. The story presented in the movie is not about these negatives or the moral dilemma of the subject. Instead it portrays a man driven by his passion, quite literally dreaming of amazing creations.

thewindrises2

I’ve taken a few key points away from the movie relating to how I view work and passion. I truly believe that the most powerful thing that you can do for yourself is to work on your passions.

1. Start With Love

The Wind Rises - Start With Love

It’s tempting to look at what others are doing that seems easy or fun and decide to do it. It’s even more tempting when you can see people making a solid living in whatever industry you’re viewing and decide that you will do just as well. The real challenge is to avoid the temptation and instead focus on the thing that you can’t stop talking, thinking, reading and even dreaming about.

If you can’t start with “love” then everyone who does love will beat everyone who “likes” or “hates”. – James Altucher

The things that you love to do are those things that will carry you through when it gets rough. When you feel like you’re stuck in a rut and everyone is surpassing you and it’s not as easy as it initially looked. When you get so far down but don’t even question it, because of course this is the thing that you were meant to do.

2. Learn From Your Mistakes

The Wind Rises - Learn From Your Mistakes

You will mess up. With any luck, you’ll mess up big time. If you do this and you keep going, you know you’re doing the thing that you love.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my work, and continue to do so. The important thing is that I attempt to learn from those mistakes and mitigate them in the future.

It is easy to screw up and give up, but why stop when you’re putting in your 10,000 hours on the way to mastery? Looking at it another way: I’d rather keep going than have to start over again somewhere else because I’ve made a mistake. You can’t gain mastery if you give up after your first setback.

3. Do the Hard Work

The Wind Rises - Do the Hard Work

Passion is great, but sustained work is exhausting. There will be times when you question whether the love is enough to get you through. Those are the times that you need to dig in and focus on the hard work.

Sometimes you have to do something that you don’t want to do on the way to your goals. Sometimes you have to work on or learn things that you don’t care about because they are stepping stones to the things that you do want to be doing.

It’d be a lie to say that doing what you love means that you never get tired of it and never feel drained by it. The important thing, like sticking through mistakes, is staying the course even when the thing you love sometimes feels like the thing that’s killing you.

4. Keep Dreaming

thewindrises4

Finally, don’t forget that love that got you where you are in the first place. Work will become stagnant if you don’t keep thinking of ways to expand and improve. You can become the best at the level that you’re at while still having people in front of you to follow.

The nice thing about perfection is that it’s an impossible dream. The great thing about passion is that it doesn’t even consider that. It will drive you to strive for perfection, giving you new dreams of new things to get you there.

Do you want to get better? Do you want to learn how to do something new? Take a hint from the first tip that James Altucher offers in the story that I just linked. Love it. Love your work, then follow the rest of the steps to get there.