Looking forward

cupcake with candle

A review of the past year and goals for the next one.

Yesterday was a mess. The kids stayed up too late the night before and were fussy all day. I probably wasn’t in the best mood myself, and wound up losing my temper several times at them. In and out, in and out of the house they went. Made a huge mess in the garage with a mudpile, and even had the gall to take a delivery off the porch to use as part of their games in the back yard. I spent the morning working in the yard. I repurposed one of our unused flowerbeds as for some pepper plants, and what I assume are pumpkin plants that I salvaged when I dug up a tree stump in the back yard. Then I cut the grass.

The girls spent much of the day doing decorations for my birthday today. The dining room is off limits, and I’ve managed not to peek. Something tells me that they chose a Star Wars theme. We’ll see.

I managed to keep to a regular schedule last night. I quit playing Factorio at ten and spent another forty minutes or so reading in bed before I turned off the lights. I got up at seven, and feel pretty well rested right now, Elder has been up, and I hear the rest of the girls rousing. I hope everyone is in a good mood today. My father is coming over, for the first time since the Lockdown, and Missus has arranged a Zoom part with my mom and who knows who else.

Last week was ok. I give it a ‘C’. I can’t really think of any accomplishments that stand out, although I did manage to write every day, including another two thousand word article that went up on LinkedIn and Substack. Building that will take time. I didn’t spend as much time as I should have working on my consulting gigs, but I ran into some technical issues that set me back. And I didn’t apply to many jobs, other than the long-shot for Invest Like The Best.

Looking back at what I accomplished this past year, it’s hard to imagine that a year ago this time I was still involved in a tense political campaign. I wasn’t writing about it then, and it’s probably a good thing, because I still haven’t talked to my campaign manager since. It was that toxic. Finishing school is no doubt my biggest accomplishment, but I’m not quite sure what I would consider my number two. I’ve learned a lot, and completing classes were their own projects considering, but I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished that much.

I’m in the middle of listening to a podcast interview with a serial entrepreneur who spent several years building a successful company and now runs a firm based on Berkshire’s model. He said he doesn’t have the drive to start a new company these days, but that it happens “accidently” from time to time. He much prefers to leave the day to day operations to others, and prefers to swoop in to which ever firm is having problems and fix them. This allows him to shift his focus every two weeks or so.

At one point he mentioned someone he knows who had an idea and was able to execute it in two or three days, and now makes some fifty thousand a month in revenue. It’s sort of mind boggling. I’ve been toiling away at my day job at Zombie and Boss still hasn’t been able to make it sustainable. I’m still working on my consulting business, but neither of my clients are at the point where they are bringing in any money. We’ll have to change that this year.

Right now I have two goals that I’ve set. FIRE by 2024, and Sixty Days to Six Figures. So far, all we’ve managed to do with the first goal is lose our mortgage insurance, which we’re rolling back into the mortgage. This should shave about four years off the life of our mortgage, which should put us somewhere around 2036. My consulting business has about six months run, but I’ve got to finish the project before I can take on more business. Or, more importantly, before I start another one of my own.

The big question for me in the next year is whether I can build a business, a real business, that can bring in four thousand dollars a month in revenue? I’m not even talking profits, but just revenue. And do so in a way that requires minimal effort on my part? I’m thinking like an ecommerce store or something similar, like selling a book on Amazon. There are lots of questions about how to go about this. Do I build it all myself, or do I use some capital to hire assistants or outsource it on Fiverr or somthing? Do I code it, or do I use a service like Shopify or some of these other no-code platform?

I should correct that. The question is not whether I can, but how fast can I?. There’s no doubt in my mind that I can make it happen, but the real question is how to make it happen amidst everything else happening in my life, at the speed I want. Two hours a week isn’t going to cut it. I have to find a way to work on it every day, to keep pushing things forward faster. To balance being a dad, and a husband, all while working a day job and everything else I got going on.

I feel up to the challenge, so it’s time to work. Here’s to the next trip around the sun.

Choice overload

I don’t seem to have issues finding flow. I guess I’m lucky like that. I don’t have any problems delving into a problem for hours on end and really disappearing into it. I seem to have a different kind of problem. Focus. It’s a situation where I find myself with too many options and I’m not sure what to do next. I guess it borders on feeling overwhelmed, but I don’t really feel that stress. The only thing that stresses me is the feeling of the immediate, the reacting. As one that works in support, I call it firefighting, those situations where something is broken, a server down, or some other critical application or service that brings me out of flow and forces me to go from what I want to do to what I have to do. Sometimes these situations are self inflicted, but other times they’re just disasters. A virus on a client server that brings them to a standstill, and requires my full undivided attention until the issue is resolved. These are the only moments in my life when I’m truly stressed.

The other problem I struggle with is deciding what to do next. It’s probably a prioritization issue, and I’m either ignoring my list of todos or otherwise procrastinating. I pulled out my copy of David Allen’s Getting Things Done and skimmed through the first third. I read it years ago and tried to implement some of it as a best practice, but I’ve struggled to really find something that works. I started using index cards for the wife and I to keep track of things. We’ve tried Trello in the past, but she didn’t really stick with it. I personally found Nirvana to be the most pleasant for me, but I quickly ran up against the limits of the free plan. Of course when I do pay for something, I quickly forget about it, and once I’m reminded about the bill and cancel the service, I start using it again.

The golden age of apps that we currently live in presents more and more of a choice paralysis for me. My various clients have their own stack, but it seems like every new startup has their own, and I seem to get bogged down in figuring out what works, what’s new, how to manage it, and most importantly, how to get buy in from the team. I could think of dozens of examples, the choices are everywhere. As someone who makes their professional calling as the ‘trusted advisor’, I get lost in a sea of possibilities. It’s hardest when you’re planning a new organization, or one that is using a lot of manual and paper processes.

In the past, it’s been trivial to take a few simple steps to get an organization moving along. A few examples: creating mailing lists where the organizer was using personal email; Setting up Google Apps for email and file sharing; registering a domain and setting up a basic website. But the longer I go on with this, the harder it’s proving to nail my preferences down to a few apps. And depending on the organization, it’s proving almost impossible to get buy in from everyone. I have one volunteer group I’m part of where they still insist on massive group chats. I recommend Signal, and things go nowhere. Trello, or Asana for task management, and everything falls off after a few weeks. The more involved I get with an org, the more convoluted things get. Having different apps for time tracking, billing, CRM, issue logs, and so on and on just gets cumbersome. Having these apps talk to each other is nice, but trying to design a solution over and over again is just sapping the energy out of me.

Which is how I found myself playing around with Basecamp last night. I need a system that I can use for my freelance work, that will allow me to add clients as needed and allow me to collaborate with them and their clients. I’m not saying that it’s the answer, but it does seem to do a lot of what I think is needed within a team. It doesn’t do it all, and I’m not sure that it’s best at all of these things, but I’ll settle for simplicity right now. What I need is less options, so that I can get back to work, and stay in flow. I need something with which I can track tasks, assignments, time entries, billing, documentation, source code if need be. There’s just too many solutions out there, and at some level it seems like some sort of entrepreneurial masterbation to be messing around with all of this crap.