Force of Habit: Day 100 / Just Getting Started

This post is part of Force of Habit a series of posts following a 100 day period of funemployment where I return to hands-on making and coding in the Autumn of 2014. Follow along as I solder, 3D print, and stumble into a new way of working and expressing.

Today is the 100th day of this grand experiment I set off on when I left full time employment in September. If I’m honest, I’m not where I thought I’d be after three months, but that’s mostly down to grand expectations and a habit for overcommitment. Of all I learned this Autumn, it has mostly been about the reach of my aptitudes and ambitions.

Although my first post referred to this process as a creative revolution, I keep referring to it as an experiment. Being an experiment, there’s a pretty fundamental hypothesis that’s been under test for the last three months:

I can fundamentally change the nature of the work I do and find a viable and sustainable replacement in just over three months

With the benefit of hindsight, that hypothesis looks incredibly naive and for the most part, the experiment tested it to failure very early. 100 days has turned out to be a long time to adjust to a new way of working but is way too short to make any real traction on developing sustainable/viable business ideas and new career paths.

Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

During the shift from being a dancer to a coder, I went through a very similar period of downtime and reinvention. On a holiday to Gozo I obsessed about the future and the progress I was making. I ruined that holiday with obsessive doubt and a Feynman book on quantum physics. I spent time in tortured rumination, instead of making the most of a short opportunity for sun and snorkeling.

Doubt and distraction has been a big part of the last six weeks in particular. “Am I working on the right things?” “Shouldn’t I work faster?” “Am I developing something valuable and meaningful, or am I just pissing about with technology?”

What’s different this time, is that instead of avoiding fear and reaching for the familiar, I’m now leaning in to the uncertainty. I’m looking at my moments of panic as a sure sign that I’m truly in new territory. And when the crises of confidence start to invade productivity or family life, I’ve learned to just park them.

A colleague at a startup I once worked for, used to talk me down from a ledge of panic by reminding me of Paul Graham’s advice: just stay alive. If I’m going to found a startup or explore bleeding edge technology, then cultivating this comfort with uncertainty and risk will be essential.

Startups rarely die in mid keystroke. So keep typing! — Paul Graham

Accomplishments

So despite being the founder of a “Hubris as a Service” startup, what have I actually achieved?

  • Successfully build a RepRap 3D printer and started 3D Printing
  • Finished building a Quadcopter complete with gimbal mounted GoPro camera
  • Raised a Lurcher puppy from weaning to mid-sized household terror
  • Rebuilt my business server from scratch with Ansible
  • Pulled together long-neglected accounts for my business
  • Helped a London cultural institution install 40 Arduino and RaspberryPi and 1 bazillion NeoPixels
  • Built a handful of Jekyll websites and a Drupal one for my sins
  • Hacked multiple blinky LED/Arduino projects

Overestimation, Nil point

I definitely overreached with my plans and barely touched some things. I failed spectacularly at:

  • Getting sidetracked by a Coursera Design course. I bailed, then signed up for two more courses, and bailed again when I saw the pattern.
  • Consistently flying the quadcopter. Change of seasons, wind and ADHD grounded me for a bit.
  • 3D printing my own designs and projects. I need to learn to model properly and the learning curve with Blender or Rhino is a long and steep one.
  • Daily blogging. This is time consuming and I started to favour making over writing. Then I got scared/intimidated and ran out of steam.

Take Aways

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. —Confucius

Lot’s learned. More about self than about tech. Here’s what I take away:

  • Real change and transformation take time. You can’t skip a step. Trust the process and keep moving.
  • Doubt is the surest sign that you’re on to real change. The trick is to lean INTO the doubt and stay with it, not seek safety in the familiar.
  • Working alone is a temporary solution for overload and burnout. New things are only born of collaboration. When in doubt, connect.
  • Family life is massively time consuming and adapting to the interruptions and pace took about 90 of the 100 days. The last 10 days have been awesome.

The best way to learn and to make progress is to do. And do. And do. Go for quantity over quality until you find your groove . Create everyday.

And now I’ve got my juices flowing again so that I feel like I can. Which is probably a good result for my first 100 days.

Special thanks

I want to say a special thank you to @blackswanburst, @yojimbo23, @jtopper and @pikesley . Your occasional encouragement or off-colour humour helped me stay focused and reminded me to have fun. I also owe my wife big time for being a co-conspirator in starting again and reminding me to just “Stick with it”. Thank you to you all.

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