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Going fishing for three years

People often ask me if I could draw for them, or write for them, or code for them. I refer all that business to other people. Here’s why.

2014-02-19 Teaching people to fish, selling fish, fishing for yourself #experiment #sharing #my-learning #teaching #confederates #community

2014-02-19 Teaching people to fish, selling fish, fishing for yourself #experiment #sharing #my-learning #teaching #confederates #community

You see, some people want to learn how to fish. These are the people who want to learn more about sketchnoting or Emacs or other things I’m interested in.

Many people want to buy fish. They don’t want to learn things themselves, but they can build on what they buy.

Most people just want to buy sushi. (Or fish and chips, or whatever.) Already prepared, no work needed, yum. They’re too busy to cook. They don’t want to know the details. They just want good stuff.

I want to learn how to fish for rare fish. The kind of fish few people bother with because you have to go into uncharted waters. Interesting, elusive fish, almost too smart to get caught. I want to learn how to ask good questions and share what I’m learning.

I want to be part of a community of enthusiasts who swap tips and stories. I want to find other people who have gotten bitten by that bug, and I want to help other people discover the joy of exploration. That’s why I’m not selling any fish. I’m focusing on learning how to fish rare fish, and teaching what I’m learning. My top priority is to learn how to fish. But I’ll take the time to teach you to fish because I want to be able to learn from you someday.

Sure, I might be able to learn a little while catching fish for other people. I know from experience, though–both mine and others–that it’s too easy to get used to that. You forget there’s a world beyond the fishponds. Better to force myself out there, while I can.

At least for the next three years (the rest of this 5-year experiment), I’ll be out fishing. That is, drawing, writing, learning, playing – somewhere out there, where few people get to go. What would wild success be like? Plenty of stories, maybe a few mementos, and a great community to keep exploring with.

2014-02-19 Imagining wild success for this experiment #experiment.png

2014-02-19 Imagining wild success for this experiment #experiment.png

Thanks to Evan Smith for the nudge to explore this metaphor!

(Note: I don’t know anything about fishing, and I’m not planning to add it as a hobby. But I do like cooking, though, which might explain some things.)

Tell me what you think!

  • What can I help you learn how to fish?
  • Are you looking for rare fish too? Let’s learn together!

Reflecting on what I want to contribute to and how interested people might (semi-)work with me

From time to time, people ask me if I’d be interested in working with them to make something bigger happen. I’m getting better at saying no. I want to focus on learning how to direct my own life. Other-directed work is seductive. Clear tasks! Appreciation! My mind wanders back to it, thinking about whether it’s better to spend this hour doing something I know people want, or something that I think might help me and others grow.

2014-02-21 Untangling myself from client work #experiment

2014-02-21 Untangling myself from client work #experiment

But I have the space to explore more, and I need to learn how to use it. Sometimes, to remind myself, I flip through the spreadsheets of my finances and projections. I joke about this being an experiment with semi-retirement. I don’t know how close to the truth it is, since circumstances can always change, but I’m ahead of where I had hoped to be. If the numbers do work out, what difference would it make? Mainly the freedom to focus on things beyond what people are clearly willing to pay me for. People might be able to pay others to do the same work I would have done, but few people are in the position to do the things I can choose to do.

2014-02-24 Reminding myself of freedom #freedom #experiment

2014-02-24 Reminding myself of freedom #freedom #experiment

What do I care about, then? What do I want to work on building as part of this experiment? What outcomes do I want to support?

2014-02-28 What outcomes do I care about #experiment

2014-02-28 What outcomes do I care about #experiment

  • Emacs help is a self-serving interest. If I help more people learn about and get deeply into Emacs, I’ll benefit from a more interesting and more adaptable editor/platform/way of life. That’s why it makes sense for me to make visual guides, pair-program with or coach people, and record screencasts and Emacs chats. (On a related note, I also care about helping people with automation, scripting, data analysis, learning, and other topics I’m curious about.)
  • Other people’s useful knowledge and insights: People know all sorts of things, but they struggle with sharing. If I get better at asking questions and podcasting interviews, I can help people share what they know in a form that other people can come across.
  • Organized info: I want to take notes along the journey instead of waiting until the end – even if it means capturing detours and dead ends. Organizing, editing, and packaging those notes makes it much easier for people to catch up, though. I can add sign-posts to mark the trail. People can always wander through the side-trails if they want to, but at least they can choose.
  • Managed resources: I’d like to be able to confidently embark on the next experiment. Frugality and good decisions make that possible. Limiting commitments and needs will help a lot, too.
  • Delegation: I want to be able to delegate well, so that I can involve other people in making things happen without wasting people’s time or attention. I think it would be a good idea to build up a process library and paths for developing skills. It’s like applying open source principles to management and processes. I want to help my team members build their skills, and I also want to help other employers and potential employers delegate more effectively.
  • Community: I want to experiment with building communities based on generously helping each other, and I’m doing that by sharing as much as I can for free. I love how people reach out to me for questions and conversations.
  • Maps and resources: Topics can be intimidating to learn. I want to help people make sense of what they’re learning, and this is where drawing overviews and creating resources can help.

At least for the duration of this 5-year experiment, I don’t need a salary or a flow of clients. The only reason to work with an organization or enter into any new partnerships, then, would be to take advantage of the scale in order to do things that I can’t do as effectively on my own. So far, I’ve been referring all work to other people (except for previous commitments). Would there be reasons for me to connect with other people who are working towards similar goals, whether through a formal partnership or an informal relationship?

2014-02-28 Are there ways for organizations to help me scale #experiment

2014-02-28 Are there ways for organizations to help me scale #experiment

  • Money isn’t enough as a motivator. Yes, I can turn surplus money into delegated time or invest in learning, experimenting, and improving my tools (and there’s always using it for extra safety). Money is not a limiting factor, though.
  • Motivating needs, feedback: One of the benefits of working with clients or organizations is that people need stuff that I might not have thought of myself. They can also give me feedback on whether what I create works for them. This can be better than making stuff in a void and wondering if it will be a good fit for anyone else. That said, though, it’s tempting to focus on what people want instead of what I’m curious about that might turn out to be good anyway. I might be okay if I get a stream of ideas without any commitment to work on them, so I can choose the things that interest me.
  • Implementation support and leverage: This one is interesting for me. For example, I can help brainstorm a list of things that would be good to make (blog posts to write, videos to record, etc.). We can work on them, bringing different skills to the table. Or I might hand it off entirely; I don’t need to write the blog post or tutorial myself.
  • Mentoring and guidance: I can learn something from people who are further down the path (or who have traveled a different but relevant path). It takes a little translation to make sure I’m still following my dreams, though.
  • Co-authorship, co-hosting: This one is interesting for me too. One of my goals is to help people get stuff out of their head and into a form that other people can learn from. Asking people questions is one way to do this. I don’t always know who knows stuff I’m curious about, and it would be great to tap other people’s networks (especially if someone can go to the trouble of coordinating with guests, etc.). Talking to other people about the things we do differently will help us learn more, and there’s probably a book or two in there.
  • Audience and reach: Less interesting for me, mainly because I’m not focused on being more popular or reaching more people. I am, however, up for more confederates.
  • Bundling: This is related to audience and reach. Have people written about topics that complement topics I’m interested in? We can offer something more useful together, maybe.
  • Process / skill feedback and improvements: This is probably the most interesting for me. I’m happy to swap ideas about what could make something better. That helps me reflect on and communicate what I do differently, and I learn from other people too. I might pick up tips along the way, too.

So that points out a few possibilities for relationships:

  • Helping people who will try things out and share their experiences: For example, we might discuss a blog post. I’d show how I might do things differently or suggest some things to try. You give it a shot, and we discuss what that’s like and where you want to go next. Ideally, I’d work with people who blog about what they’re learning along the way, so those ideas get written up and shared too. If not, maybe they’re open to having the coaching in public, so I can just post that. At the very least, I can harvest the tips myself and put them into blog posts. I’m interested in scale, so helping people who help others might work out.
  • Brainstorming ideas and directing work: We might come up with a list of things that would be good to make. Then you or your team can make that happen, and I can give feedback. It’s kinda like the books I want to write or the things I want to fix. I don’t mind if other people get to it first, as long as it gets done.
  • Picking people’s brains together: We come up with topics of mutual curiosity, and you find someone who can speak about the topic. I’ll float the idea by my network too. We chat, and the whole thing gets recorded, transcribed, posted, etc.

I think I’ll do this on a free/pay-what-you-want basis as well, as an experiment. I want people to talk to me, because I learn a lot from the process. Comments, conversations, confederacies, and long-term relationships are awesome. If you’re charging people for stuff (directly, through sponsorship, etc.), it’s probably fair that you pass some revenue on as a way of indicating the value you perceive. That mostly translates into more experiments anyway, so you can indirectly encourage me to explore the kinds of stuff you’re also interested in.

Hmm. That might be a good way for me to focus on the stuff that I want to happen, while allowing other people to link up in case we can collaborate on shared goals. I’m not going to subsume my goals under anyone else’s, but if there’s low-hanging fruit that I can easily reach and pick for you while I’m on my way to what I want, I might as well – especially if it gives you a boost so that you can pick your own low-hanging fruit better. =)

So what this might look like in real life is:

  • Maybe you’re working on something that’s a great fit for an outcome that I’m working towards too, or you’re working on something that could benefit from short, commitment-less help from me.
  • Reach out with what you’re interested in. Pick something that we can discuss in 15-30 minutes. (As it turns out, you can cover a lot in 15 minutes.) I’ve committed to working on stuff that’s publicly available, so focus on things like blog posts, videos, resources, etc.
  • If it tickles my fancy, we’ll bounce around ideas or approaches.
  • Do something with at least one idea, and get back to me with your experiences and next questions. (And even better, a write-up about what you’re learning!)

That should be good for letting me give focused, specific help, while keeping my mind uncluttered so that I can focus on the things I want to do that are less common. =) Let’s see how it works out!

Reflections on infopreneurship

There’s a lot of information on how you can build an online business by selling what you know. Many people are looking for that dream. It feels a little weird to me, and I want to figure out why. I guess one of the things that rubs me the wrong way is that a lot of people talk about becoming an expert in some crowded topic, and building an audience somehow. I don’t want an audience. I don’t want students. I want peers and confederates: people who learn, act, reflect, and share.

2014-02-14 Reflections on infopreneurship and alternatives

2014-02-14 Reflections on infopreneurship and alternatives

Another thing that makes me uncomfortable is that there seems to be very little expectation of action. There’s a lot of talk about it. But when I go and follow up with people on the results of the advice I applied from them, they’re boggled that I actually did something. One person I talked to said that 80% of the people he talked to don’t end up doing anything. 20% is still a good number, but still…  Steve Salerno wrote in Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless that the people who buy new self-help books tend to be people who bought a similar self-help book in the past 18 months. I don’t want to give people something that just makes them feel like they’ve made progress instead of helping them actually do things.

I think part of my hesitation comes from this: People get stuck for lots of different reasons, but it’s rarely for lack of reading. I don’t want to pitch information as the magic pill, the silver bullet, the shortcut to making things happen.

When I read, I skip platitudes but dig into reflections and lessons learned. I like processes and workflows. I want what I share to be similarly useful. The stuff that helps me get unstuck tends to result in thoughts like this:

  • “Oh! That’s the name of what I’m looking for. Now I can dig into the details.”
  • “Hmm, what I’m dealing with turns out to be fairly common. I can try what other people have done.”
  • “Oh, I see, I was missing that particular piece. Let me try this now.”
  • “Interesting question! Let me explore that…”
  • “Okay, that’s less intimidating than I thought. I should just go for it.”
  • “I had no idea you could do that! Oooh…”

What can I write or draw to help people get those moments? How do I help people get unstuck – or better yet, how can I help them accelerate or expand their learning? And since I can code and tinker and dream… What can I make? Ideas are one thing, but tools are another. I’ll keep an eye out for places where people are consistently getting stuck, and I’ll see which ones lend themselves to automation.

2014-02-14 Building systems to help people do things

2014-02-14 Building systems to help people do things

As I explore packaging and publishing more, I want to focus on stuff that people can’t find in a gazillion other blogs and e-books out there. Keep me honest. =) I like making things free/pay-what-you-want, since it helps me act from abundance, widen the conversation, and make room for people’s generosity. I’ll also share the processes and tools I’m building for myself. If you find them interesting, tell me, and maybe we can find ways to tweak and expand them to accommodate your idiosyncrasies as well as mine. I like the conversations that grow out of this, too.

Some of my technical role models have published books (both self-published and traditional). I can see how that saves a lot of people time and helps people learn. They work on open source projects and commercial systems too. I think that’s the sort of information work I want: stuff that helps people do things.

Hmm… Aha! Maybe that’s it. If I focus on helping fellow geeks solve problems or try interesting things (mostly tech, some lifestyle?), then I don’t have to worry as much about wasting people’s attention. We’re used to trying things out and testing them against our own experience, and we’re used to telling people “Hey, that didn’t quite work for me” or “That saved me a few hours of figuring things out! Here’s something to make it even better.” =)

2014-02-24 Aha, a plan for the things I want to write #experiment

2014-02-24 Aha, a plan for the things I want to write #experiment

(No offense to life coaches, motivational speakers, and self-help authors. Hey, if it works for you, great. =) I don’t have the experience to give good, well-tested advice in that area yet.)

Technical guides, I think. My long-postponed book about Emacs. Short guides about Org Mode or automation or Evernote or information management. There’s a lot to write. These aren’t books people read for inspiration and the vague desire to do something someday; they address what people want to improve now. (Well, maybe Emacs is a little on the inspirational side. ;) )

It’s easy for me to connect with people who are already travelling similar paths. I can share my notes. I can reach out and ask questions. What about helping people who are just starting down those paths? Maybe that’s where packaging what I know can be useful, especially if I can help people accelerate their learning and diverge to follow their own questions. My selfish desire is to learn from other people’s perspectives. I don’t want to make people dependent on me, the way that people seem to become fans of one motivational speaker or another. I want people to learn from what I’ve learned, but I also want them to translate it to their contexts, test it against their lives, and add their own insights. I’m happy to spend extra time helping beginners who do stuff, think about it, and then go on to ask different questions.

2014-02-09 How do I want to manage my learn-share pipeline

2014-02-09 How do I want to manage my learn-share pipeline

So, what would the processes look like if I figured this out? I’d have a good balance of thinking, learning, doing, and sharing. I’d be able to work top-down from outlines, anticipating the questions people might have. I could work bottom-up from questions and blog posts, too. I might not notice that I have enough to publish, so I could establish triggers to check whether enough has accumulated that it needs to be chunked at a higher level of abstraction: Q&A or sketches into blog posts, blog posts into series, series into short books, short books into longer ones. I’d harvest all the generally useful Q&A from e-mail and conversations to make sure they’re captured in the pipeline somewhere, even if it’s an item in my Someday list.

Onward!

Reflection: Two years into my 5-year experiment

“Monotony collapses time; novelty expands it,” writes Joshua Foer in Moonwalking with Einstein. It feels like more than two years since the start of my 5-year experiment with semi-retirement, which is what I jokingly called this adventure into a self-directed life. So far, amazing. This year, I focused less on consulting and event sketchnoting, and I focused more on creating my own content. More than 500 sketches and three mini-eBooks later, I feel happy about this decision, and I’m curious about where else it can lead.

I’ve also been ramping up my delegation and systematization. Since I’m still doing a bit of consulting here and there, I think that these processes will help me get even better at making and sharing things even if my attention is divided–and that can come in handy later on. Let’s see how it goes.

2014-02-16 Two years into my 5-year experiment #experiment #review

2014-02-16 Two years into my 5-year experiment #experiment #review

I’d done a pre-mortem of possibilities for failure back in 2012, but I don’t think I wrote about the success criteria or vision. (That’s odd!) Somewhat belated, but here it is. This experiment is shaping up to be about whether I’ve got what’s needed for a good self-directed life. I think success for this experiment would be:

  • exploring uncommon questions and ideas
  • having a happy life at home
  • helping lots of people grow
  • having sold plans and a great foundation for next steps
2014-02-16 Goals and success criteria for my 5-year experiment #experiment #success

2014-02-16 Goals and success criteria for my 5-year experiment #experiment #success

So, how was this year different from last year? What might next year be like? What would wild success at the end be like?

2014-02-16 More detailed evaluation of 5-year experiment so far #experiment #review #evaluation

2014-02-16 More detailed evaluation of 5-year experiment so far #experiment #review #evaluation

The first year was about getting the hang of paperwork and consulting. This second year was about coming into my own. Next year will be a good year for growth and resilience, I think. If I can continue on that path, I think it’ll be interesting.

Reflections on learning to be an entrepreneur

The other week, I focused on exploring ideas and becoming my own client. Last week, I focused on the systems I can set up in order to keep on sharing while I’m distracted by work or other needs. The other week felt happier and more self-directed, but on reflection, last week is great for long-term learning and growth as well. I just have to keep tweaking the balance. Some weeks might be more exploratory, and some weeks might be more focused on packaging things and building processes. I’ll probably spend more time on consultinfg going forward than I thought I would two weeks ago, but I can see the benefits of investing the extra income into building up my delegation skills and experimenting with business ideas. (Besides, my clients are nice, and I want to help them do well.)

2014-02-07 Adjusting the balance

2014-02-07 Adjusting the balance

Thinking about this balance reminded me of this conversation that I had with Ramon Williamson, who has been thinking about the differences between artists and entrepreneurs. He’s coming to terms with the fact that he wants to focus on just speaking and coaching, and he doesn’t want to deal with a lot of the other small things that are part of building a business. It’s like the way my dad focused on just photography while my mom took care of running the company. Ramon is looking for someone who can manage him. I think a lot of people are like that, even the ones who have been self-employed for a while. That’s why partnerships often make sense, and why people often struggle with self-employment or self-directed learning.

I think of entrepreneurship as learning how to build processes, then systems, then businesses. It turns out  actually enjoy doing this. I stayed up until 1 AM Sunday morning interviewing an applicant for a writing gig that I posted on oDesk. She seems fine, so I hired her and walked her through what I’m looking for. I’m excited about the possibilities. I briefly thought of agreeing to experiment with managing Ramon and using that as practice for developing my systems, but I’ve committed to doing public work that builds up my life brick by brick. So I’m going to invest in building up my processes and skills, but I’m going to do that with my own content. That will also encourage me to develop my “artist” side: writing, drawing, coding, sharing, and so on.

Does it always have to be a partnership between an artist and an entrepreneur, or can you do a decent job at both? It seems like artists need to partner with entrepreneurs, but entrepreneurs with artistic bents can sometimes pull things off on their own. I think it makes sense for me to focus on developing those entrepreneurship-related skills first. It might mean growing slowly as an artist, but I think processes can scale up art so much. For example, becoming really comfortable with delegation will allow me to imagine things that I can’t do on my own. This seems to be something that lots of people struggle with. Most people I talk to have issues with trust, perfectionism, and other barriers. That means that it probably doesn’t take that much effort to get good enough to distinguish yourself, so if I can get to that level, that would speed up my growth even more.

2014-02-08 Artists and entrepreneurs

2014-02-08 Artists and entrepreneurs

People’s interests and skills are unevenly distributed. In some areas, it takes a lot of effort to get good enough. In some areas, a little effort goes a long way. It reminds me a little of how one strategy for playing role-playing games is to be a munchkin: to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses in a way that allows you to exploit the rules of the game. While that can lead to games that aren’t particularly enjoyable (unless you’re playing a game that makes fun of munchkinry), in life, a little of that strategy might be interesting. So, in the areas where I have unfair advantages–and in particular, unusual combinations of unfair advantages–I might be able to recognize opportunities for uncommon contributions.

This enjoyment of building processes and systems is one such unfair advantage. Coding is another, and delegation is almost like a people-version of coding. Frugality lets me take advantage of compounding interest. Reflective learning helps me take advantage of figurative compounding interest, which is enhanced by speed-reading my way through other people’s experiences and insights. Satisficing and optimism allow me to avoid the dangers of perfectionism and make it easier for me to experiment and trust. Self-direction lets me use these advantages to my own ends instead of being limited by someone else’s imagination or by a job description.

2014-02-08 Unfair advantages

2014-02-08 Unfair advantages

It is a handy combination of advantages. You should be out there, Ramon said. Joining the ranks of infopreneurs (many of whom seem to make their money by telling other people how to be infopreneurs). Making things happen. Living the life. I’m a little meh about the idea. I’ll grow at my own rate and at my own time. Plus, I like the free-and-pay-what-you-want model so much more than the buy-my-training-course-for-$X-hundred-dollars. I like the way it engages generosity and acts from abundance, both on my side (here is a gift!) and on other people’s. (Here is some totally optional appreciation! Make more stuff like this.) I’ll either figure out how to make that work, or I’ll eventually come around to setting prices. In the meantime, I can focus on building up those unfair advantages at the same time that I’m building up the things I want to make with them.

For example: delegation. I like framing my work as something that people can flexibly do more or less of, depending on their schedules and energies. It’s the same freedom I have with consulting, and I think it makes it easier for people who work for me as well. So it’s not a fixed “You must work 20 hours a week” thing, but rather, “Here’s a board with all the different tasks waiting for someone to work on them. Pick something you want to work on. You can work more hours on the weeks when you want to, and you can work fewer hours on the weeks that you need to. Just tell me if you need to be away for a while, so I can make sure that work gets reassigned.” I’ll check in with my virtual assistants to see if this is working for them or if they need deadlines or set times for focus and motivation. Eventually I might work up to asking for consistent time slots so that I have an idea of turn around times, but the system seems to be working so far.

I’ve been adding more people to my virtual team. There’s a range of rates (anywhere from $2-12/hour), and I’m working on gradually getting more of my assistants to deserve and totally justify higher rates. I proactively give them bonuses and raises, even. Instead of micromanaging who works on what in order to maximize cost-efficiency (approach A: different people for different skills; see diagram below), I’m experimenting with putting all the tasks on Trello and letting people choose from the tasks based on their skills and energy. If I’ve got good enough rapport with the team, then people might focus on the stuff that really justifies the value in their rate. I want to get to the point where people are generally cross-trained, so people can take the task and see it through end-to-end (approach D). I remember from Toyota’s lean method that this makes work better (versus the assembly line, where you only see your small part).

I’m also working on chunking higher-level tasks – the delegation equivalent of going up a level of abstraction, writing procedures that call other procedures. (See my list of processes) For example, I started with separate tasks to extract the MP3, add metadata, upload to archive.org, transcribe the audio, etc. Now I’m testing the task of posting show notes, which includes all of those. Maybe someday I’ll get to object-oriented programming!

2014-02-08 Delegation and task efficiency

2014-02-08 Delegation and task efficiency

I started by mostly working on my podcasting flow, but I’m also experimenting with delegating other processes to support learning or sharing. For example, how can delegation support my drawing? My process is pretty efficient at the moment (aside from some cross-referencing data entry that I don’t usually get around to doing myself), but if I batch things up more, maybe other people can help me tag my sketches and turn them into posts.

2014-02-05 Delegation and drawings - where does it make sense
2014-02-05 Delegation and drawings – where does it make sense

Writing is another good candidate, too. Podcasting and drawing help with writing, so it all comes together. I want to get even better at pulling stuff out of my head and out of other people’s heads, and getting those ideas into a form that other people can easily learn from. That’s why I’m experimenting with getting writers to help me pull out ideas from Q&As in transcripts and from all these thinking-out-loud self-reflections that may be a little too long and rambling for most people to make the most of. For example, a reader-focused tips post based on this might just focus on building systems and omit the role-playing games references. The end goal for that one would be to have a blog that mixes shorter, focused tips with long behind-the-scenes notes, and to have e-books (and maybe even physical books!) that flow well. That way, it’s good for people who just want a burst of inspiration so that they can get on with applying the ideas to their life, and it’s also good for people who like seeing the verbose tracing messages as I think and learn.

It’s a bit strange investing so much in the processes and output without yet building up the kind of audience and demand that justifies it, but I think it’s the Right Thing to Do to have transcripts and follow-up blog posts and all that jazz. If I grow sustainably and keep an eye on my finances, I’ll probably get to that take-off point right when I have the skills and systems to support it – and more importantly, the community. I figure it’s much easier to build great relationships with confederates/tribe people (Hi!) and provide useful resources for searchers while I’m not distracted by the mainstream yet, and I might not even bother with going mainstream. I’m just going to focus on you, and maybe you’ll find it so awesome that you’ll bring in a few people for whom this is also a really good fit.

That seems to be the general pattern of how I’m learning about entrepreneurship. I’m investing in the capabilities now rather than waiting for demand to completely drive it – almost like my own little MBA. Still cheaper than $80k+ for an MBA at Rotman, and you’ll get better value out of my “class projects” (like this free PDF/EPUB/MOBI of my No Excuses Guide to Blogging guide). At some point, we’ll figure out a proper business model. Maybe it’s sponsorship. Maybe it’s pay what you want. Maybe it’s membership, although we’ll need to find something that doesn’t involve just exclusive access to content, since I like making ideas as widely spread as possible. Maybe more of a coaching program? If you want me to sell to you, tell me how you want me to sell to you. (Comment, tweet, or e-mail me!)

2013-11-17 Should I sell to people more - If so, how would you like that

2013-11-17 Should I sell to people more – If so, how would you like that

(Although to be fair, there’s probably a lot of demand already out there. People have been asking me for an Emacs book for years. Look! I’ve started drawing maps and other Emacs tips. It will happen. I just need to sit down and share more raw material. This means you need to sit down and ask me questions about stuff I’m taking for granted.)

Maybe it’s a weird sort of entrepreneurship that I’m growing into, but I think it will be fun. How can I use what I’m learning to help you?

Reflecting on wild success

While cleaning out my blog drafts (150+ had accumulated over the years), I came across a post that I had started writing in February 2009. Part of the draft had been incorporated into this imagination of wild success, but the draft had more details I had never gotten around to posting. It’s been almost five years since then, so I thought I’d dust it off and see what had happened.

What would wild success look like? Thinking about this helps me figure out where I want to go and how I want to get there. The picture is still fuzzy and I know it’ll change over time, but it’s interesting to see what’s in it and what isn’t.

Here’s what a day in my future wildly successful life could look like:

Life is fantastic. I’m happy, I’m making a difference doing something I love doing, and I smile every day. I wake up at 5:00am to kisses, cats, music, light, and colors. I exercise a little in the morning, to help me wake up and get the day off to an energetic start. I have a delicious and healthy breakfast with loved ones – fresh fruits in season, steel-cut oats, fluffy pancakes, or other favorites. Then I clear the kitchen table, do my morning planning, and work on some fun, creative things: brainstorming, writing blog posts and articles, and developing prototypes and systems. I snack on nearby fruits and nuts throughout the morning. I may launch a new information product before lunch, or at least once a week. The payments start rolling in.

As it turns out, 5 AM is much too early for me. 8 AM is more reasonable. Yes to kisses and cats (technically, cat – only Neko is allowed in the bedroom). Reading this reminded me that I should set my alarm to some music instead of the chime that I set during my last system restore. Lights and colours are accomplished with bedside lamp and smartphone. I don’t bother with exercise unless I really need to wake up fast; with enough sleep, I usually wake up well-rested. Our breakfast routines have settled into plain rice and fried egg, occasionally with beef tapa; sometimes oatmeal or congee if we make a large batch. I work on the kitchen table because I like the sunlight, although I also like using the desk I’ve set up downstairs. I decided against the information-product route, at least for now; I’d rather learn, explore, and share for free.

We have a light and yummy lunch: leftover pasta, salad, soup, or something like that. Then I work on more routine tasks: testing code, editing and formatting documents, answering mail, following up with people. I also check on the status of my delegated tasks, and things are going well. Towards the end of the day, I wind down by doing chores. Sometimes we take a walk to pick up new books or groceries. We exercise, make dinner, and take care of other things. I spend some time connecting with others socially, too – writing on my blog, connecting with people online, calling people. The day ends on a happy and thankful note.

Routine tasks get deferred to low-energy time at some point during the week, now that I’ve learned to be less guilty about my inbox. Things are going well with delegation. =) Chores continue to be a great way to wind down, although I tend to do library walk after lunch so that I can get some exercise and sunlight. I’ve decided to not bother with making phone calls, although I’ll dip into social networks at the beginning and end of my day. Google Helpouts has become an interesting way to schedule interaction, too.

The income from investments covers my basic expenses, freeing me up to work on information products and experiment with things I’m interested in. I’ve figured out how to create and capture lots of value using the Internet, and I enjoy making little experiments and creating value. The money from that goes into my “retirement” fund (which is really just about freeing up even more of my time to work on larger projects), and into a few luxuries. Our lifestyles remain simple, and our expenses are minimal.

I crunched the numbers for last year, and I was surprised to find that my (theoretical) capital gains exceeded my expenses by a healthy margin. Yay! This and other things mean I can experiment with giving what I know away for free / pay what you want, which results in much less friction and much more happiness (at least for me). =) Our lifestyle is pretty much the same as it was in 2009, except that I buy a slightly wider range of groceries and I occasionally buy tools.

I visit the Philippines at least once a year, and I sometimes stay there for a while so that I can hang out with friends and try different experiences. When my friends are busy working, I work remotely, creating more things and trying things out.

It works out to every other year or so. Last time, we stayed for a month, which was much more awesome than staying for just two weeks. =)

I regularly give presentations to companies, universities, and other groups, and I have a good workflow for putting those online and helping people learn from them. I help organize virtual and in-person events, bringing people together for great conversations. I experiment with ideas for helping people connect and collaborate. Sometimes I coach people, too.

Semi. Writing and drawing is much more fun than giving presentations, and I have a good workflow for putting my sketches online. I help organize a couple of meetups in Toronto, and I’m getting pretty comfortable setting up online conversations. And yes, I’m experimenting with helping people connect through Google Helpouts, and a lot of those conversations look like coaching. Funny how that works out…

I enjoy playing some favorite tunes on the piano, drawing diagrams and pictures, and writing about life and technology. I enjoy sewing, and my wardrobe is full of clothes that make me feel happy and creative.

Nope on the piano and the sewing, but yep on the drawing and writing. My wardrobe is pretty much the same it was back then (aside from the addition of a few tech-fabric shirts and pants). It’s better-tracked, though! <laugh>

It’s amusing to unearth old notes and reflect on how things actually worked out, and how my tastes haven’t changed much over the years. What I’d sketched lines up closely with how I live, but that’s because my wants are small. I knew back then that I would probably do an experiment like this, and that helped me save for it. Here I am, learning things I hadn’t even put on my list. =) What will the next five years be like? I’m not sure yet. If it’s more of the same, that will be awesome; and if it’s different, I’m sure it will be awesome too.