April Goal Review

I almost held it for May, but I decided to publish a short, short version of the goal update for April:

1. Build the Boat – Launch the 17′ Herreshoff Rowboat.

I’m in the home stretch of the outside of the boat. 2-3 chances to work and I should be ready to sand & paint.
I found a partial sheet of plywood I had tucked behind some other materials in the tiny shop, so I don’t have to make another full-day plywood run.

2. Post to CultivatingEccentricity.com – Use the blog to clarify ideas and direction.

If you haven’t already, it’s time for you to start a blog.
Seriously. I’ve never encountered anything as beneficial for sorting out priorities. It’s been immensely helpful for me, and I may have actually tripped over a couple of insights in the process.

3. 34 to 31 – Change how I eat and how I exercise to drop 3″ off my waist.

I’ve developed this nagging shoulder injury that is really slowing me down. I can’t do pushups or pull-ups without contorting my shoulder joint to compensate for the lack of strength/sudden pain created by the injury. I’ve been stalling a long time, but it’s probably time to see a doctor.

On a positive note, the vision quest (post coming soon, I promise) was a strong affirmation of the benefits I’m pursuing.

4. Monetize a side business – Make $500 on a side business.

Spending lots of time on business plans and I should be meeting with investors before the end of May. There’s definitely some momentum picking up here. I can’t believe a month ago I had no ideas and no realistic prospects.

5. Adventures – Go on Adventures.

Hocking Hills baby, Yeah!

I’m considering moving to a bi-monthly update for the rest of the year. I like the monthly accountability structure, but my progress is so slow that it feels self-indulgent to keep putting these out there for people to read.


March Goal Review

I’m feeling non-committal about the monthly goal update. For anyone familiar with the goals a recap has to be desperately boring. On the other hand, anyone not familiar is going to wonder what the heck I’m talking about if I don’t include any background.

Perhaps later in the year I’ll come up with a middle ground. In the mean-time these posts are my accountability check and I’m not going to stop.

Without further ado, the March Goal Review:

1. Build the Boat – Launch the 17′ Herreshoff Rowboat.

Man! When I get 4 solid weekends of work in a month I am going to make huge progress on this boat.

Once again I only got two weekends to work. I was able to hang one plank. I’m working 2 or 3 times faster, and more accurately than in the past. As I improve my skills old flaws jump out at me with greater clarity. I guess higher standards are the downside to improvement.

One problem that cropped up is the discovery that I don’t have enough material. I thought I might have enough to finish, but the last plank I cut made it clear that I will run short.

The closest marine grade plywood is a 4-5 hour drive from here. I won’t be able to make the trip until at least the third week of March, so I’m going to have a significant lull in my construction progress. In addition, I will have to use one of my work days to make the drive. So much for productivity. 😦

Because of the length of the drive I’m considering purchasing the plywood for my next boat at the same time. 4 more sheets? Ouch, pricy!

Nevertheless, it’s really starting to look like a boat.

I’m so freakin’ excited!

2. Post to CultivatingEccentricity.com – Use the blog to clarify ideas and direction.

I’m journaling and writing more in 2012 than ever before. I’m overrun by ideas and that’s a lot of fun.

I’m getting much more clear on how I can help people. That improved focus makes the work much simpler and really adds energy to my life. I keep waking up in the middle of the night ready to work on business ideas or work on the boat. That’s fun!

3. 34 to 31 – Change how I eat and how I exercise to drop 3″ off my waist.

I moved down a notch on my belt!

I’m still having smoothies for breakfast every day and (inconsistently) working on the Angry Birds Workout.

The workout includes 4 exercises:

  1. Body weight squats – I’m able to do my 100 squats without days of soreness, but I still think I have room to progress before moving up a level.
  2. Pull-ups – I decided to do as many pull-ups as I can each time I put the dog out. I’ve done as many as four five, though three is more typical. One thing is certain…the dog wants out waaaay too often.
  3. Push-ups – I’m doing so much upper body work with the pull-ups that I’m not improving my pushups at all.
  4. Planks – Do you know how hard it is to hold a plank while a 2 year old climbs on you? This one’s not pretty.

While that’s mostly good news, I haven’t really established this as a habit yet. Maybe February  March will bring consistency.

Did I mention I moved down a notch on my belt?

4. Monetize a side business – Make $500 on a side business.

I’m working on logistics/business planning for a couple of ideas and I made a prototype of a product design. I’m excited about both of these projects, but they are long term.

Was this a crazy idea? I don’t have any short-term prospects. $500 seemed ridiculously small when I was cooking up my crazyawesomehellyeah projects for 2012 but now it seems a long way away.

Does it count to get head shots and start auditioning? That’s honestly my best idea for short-term payoff right now.

I knew this goal would be back-burnered while I focused on the boat, but I feel like it’s just sitting out there. Mocking me.

5. Adventures – Go on Adventures.

No adventures in February.

Tonight at dinner Grace told me we should have an adventure to Hanoi. She’s heard they have houseboats with sails called “junks”.

I can’t spring for the airfare right now, but I think they have houseboats and junk on Lake Cumberland. Maybe we’ll compromise there this summer.

February lacked some of January’s excitement.

That’s when people quit, right?
The excitement wears off and we start to see the real work that our plans require.
We ditch the gym, or the diet, or whatever.
Life happens and we lose our momentum.

Not. This. Year.

What are you working on?
Tell me in the comments.

34 to 31

34 to 31 is my plan to lose 3″ off my waistline in 2012.
As you may have guessed I currently measure 34″.

I hate shopping for pants, but when 34 to 31 succeeds I’ll have to.

I don’t really care about my waist size (34″ works fine for me). Plus, like I said, I hate the shopping.
You’d think I could leave well enough alone.

I do care about running though, and hiking, and yoga, and all sorts of other things. I don’t have the mental stamina to track all these separately as goals. Besides, individual plans would drive me crazy with scheduling and I’d feel guilty if I didn’t get to them all each week.

Faced with this dilemma I thought about the results. If I could find a common thread in the effects could I focus on and track the effect rather than the activities? I know that’s backwards from the goal setting literature but it seemed to be a fit for this scenario. (Do you think it will work?).

I spent a lot of time trying to find a through-line: Strength training would make my weight go up, eating more vegetables would tend to make it go down. Running would make my muscles stiff and tight, yoga would make them flexible.

Eventually I realized that each of them would trend me towards a smaller waist. When I figured that out I arrived at 34 to 31.

On the way to 31 I may make some of the following lifestyle changes:

PR a 10K
Run another 1/2 Marathon
Do 30 consecutive days of yoga
Do 100 pushups
Ditch soda
Go to sleep earlier
Eat more vegetables
Start swimming again
Start cycling to work again
Stop with the cookies

Or I may not.

I may make other changes instead. I hope the framework of the waist size goal will drive what kinds of habits I start while leaving me flexibility and spontaneity when deciding specific projects to begin.
When I execute on these ideas my waist size will drop.

Then I’ll have to buy new pants.


February Goal Review

My apologies for the delay in getting this update out.
I published the recap to Adventure #1 last week when I returned from Florida and I’m behind schedule on this one.

Here’s a brief run-down of my 2012 goals and the progress I’ve made on each.

1. Build the Boat

You would think that the person who books plane tickets and hotel stays wouldn’t lose track of the fact that he’d be traveling for two weekends of the month.

You’d be wrong.

I forgot the January travel schedule. I wanted to make huge progress and didn’t really get as much done as I wanted. But, I fixed a significant error from December, I hung a plank, and spiled another.

Hanging a plank means to attach it to the rest of the boat.
Spiling is transferring the shape of a plank from the boat/building frame to a pattern.

Not bad for two partial weekends of work.

What’s really great is that I am improving my knowledge and skills as I go, so each step should be faster/easier than the prior one.

I’m excited about the progress and eager to get back to work.
I only have two free weekends in February, but if I can re-produce January’s progress I’ll be in pretty good shape.

2. Post to CultivatingEccentricity.com

Posting to Cultivating Eccentricity is a simple goal, and I’ve been able to keep up with my (not very strenuous) twice a month plan. The bigger picture of this goal is that it keeps me thinking about what is important to me and about how I can help people. I committed to this goal because I thought that a regular writing schedule would provide insight to what’s really important to me and how I might be able to help people. I’m very pleased with my results so far.

3. 34 to 31

34 to 31 is my Fitness and Weight-loss goal for 2012. When the year is over I’ll have dropped 3 inches from my waist and my BMI will be firmly centered in the healthy range.

In January I made one solid and consistent change that has now become a habit.
I read a post at NoMeatAthlete on how to make a good smoothie. I took Matt’s recipe and started making a smoothie every morning. I’ve replaced my typical breakfast of cereal and milk with fruits and vegetables.

I tweaked Matt’s system a little by adding three handfuls of chopped kale.

I have three good results to report:

1. I like breakfast better when I have smoothies instead of cereal.
2. I don’t get as hungry through the middle of the day.
3. I feel lighter, like somebody lifted a weight off my stomach.

I also started doing the Angry Birds Workout from Nerd Fitness. You should read Steve’s full post for details, but it’s all about short body-weight workouts. In the time most people would play a level of Angry Birds you can do mini workouts to gradually build functional strength. In addition, Steve created a series of tiers so you can level up your workout from time to time.

My squats have moved from level 2 to 4 and I can do 10 more pushups than when I started. My right shoulder doesn’t hurt any more either.

While that’s all good news, I haven’t really established this as a habit yet. Maybe February will bring consistency.

I think it’s too early for another waist measurement, but my pants feel a little loose.

4. Monetize a side business.

I haven’t done anything. I’ve thought a lot, but no action.

5. Adventures

I experimented with minimalish travel with my family and had a great trip. I think we’ve cleared every hurdle we had to travel (except $). I can take my wife and kids anywhere we want to go and that’s a great feeling. For more details see Adventure #1 and my followup post.

I’m ahead of schedule on the adventure goal. I need to complete one every three months, so knocking one out in January puts me in good shape. I’ve completed some planning steps for the spring and summer adventures but nothing’s concrete yet. More details as things firm up.


January was awesome!
The whole month was jam-packed with living intentionally instead of sleepwalking through my existence.
I had a great month and I’m really excited about the clear progress I’ve made on my goals. I’m pumped up about February and everything I get to do in the next several weeks.

Bring it on!

Why would anyone want to build a boat?

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

-Langston Hughes

When I was a kid I helped my Dad build a boat. He was great to work with and a consummate teacher. That was lucky, because I made a lot of mistakes. Many times I learned firsthand that I should have followed his advice. He graciously allowed errors into the finished boat because the process was more important to him than the product.

Despite the errors I had one genuine point of pride. I hand carved an ash mast step to extend our 2nd hand hobie rig to the necessary height for our sail plan. It was a tricky piece of work and I did it all myself. Looking at it today with a critical adult eye I can’t see how it could be better. That experience of mastery, of doing something really well, was a high. After that I always thought I would build a boat myself. One day I would create and launch a beautiful craft that would match the artistry of my mast step.

You need three things to build a boat: time, money, and space. I always seemed to lack at least one, so I contented myself with looking at plans and reading about techniques. I gradually deferred the boat to the nebulous “someday” where ideas and dreams are put out to pasture.

Then, my Grandfather died. Like me, (like you?) he always dreamed about things he would do someday. His dream was to build a log cabin. He bought the land and had the knowledge but he never broke ground.

I realized that my own plans were gradually slipping away.

That’s why I’m building a boat.

I started soon after his death but at some point I lost focus and the project languished in my garage untouched.

Then the strangest thing happened…I noticed.

I noticed that time was passing me by again.
I noticed that I wasn’t working on the projects that interested me and energized me the most.
I noticed that I was checking off the mundane tasks of life that didn’t really matter to me.
I noticed that I was tired and it was hard to get up in the morning.
I noticed my kids asking when they’d get to ride in the boat.

That’s why I’ll finish it this year.

Tell me in the comments, what will you finish this year?

2012 Eccentric Goals

There will be no recap of my progress towards 2011 goals, I just can’t do it.
It’s not that I won’t do it, I literally can’t do it.

A year ago I experimented with several different apps and programs for recording goals and to-do lists. This spring I had some virus issues and migrated to a new PC. Somewhere in all of the changes I lost all of my 2011 goals. I have files on my goals going back to 2006, and maybe some paper records from before that, but 2011 is conspicuous in it’s absence.

I wash my hands of what I was supposed to do, here’s what I actually did…

  • Traveled to Canada for my first trip outside of the US since I performed in Europe in 1992. I got to watch my daughter dance with the Windsor Symphony. It was awesome.
  • Traveled to Mexico with Jeanne for our first kid free trip in 8 years. Big first step in our long-term travel ambitions.
  • Heard Derek Sivers’  youtube video “Hell yeah, or no“. This has totally changed my thinking on priorities and allowed me to remove a lot of unproductive drag from my life.
  • Started reading blogs for the first time (I know, crazy, right?) and discovered minimalism. I’m not a minimalist, but the philosophy has let me get rid of a lot more of the unproductive drag referenced above.
  • Implemented the Kinect hack on a friend’s Mac and started to think seriously about picking up some consulting gigs.
  • Exercised enough to maintain fitness but not enough to injure myself. This is actually a huge accomplishment for me. I always push too hard, gut it out, and break down. The only concrete goal I remember for 2011 was to heal. I wanted to finish recovering from a bad ankle injury in February 2010 and not injure anything else. 100% success!
  • Made significant progress learning French. I was able to hold coherent conversations with native speakers in the few opportunities I had and my reading skills are much better.

Lots of other things happened, but I’m so pumped about my plans for the upcoming year I’m ready to move on.

I’ve cleared enough space in my life recently that my mind is running wild with possibilities. The toughest part of setting goals for 2012 has been deciding which one’s I’m ready to commit to, which are just passing fancies, and which I need to place on my “perhaps” list for some unspecified date in the future.

Without further ado, here are my eccentric goals for 2012:

1. Complete and launch the wooden rowboat I am building in my garage.
2. Post to cultivatingeccentricity every two weeks, minimum.
3. Reduce my waist size from 34″ to 31″. I’ll grant you that this is not an eccentric goal, but my means to achieving it will be. More on that later.
4. Monetize at least one of my ideas and make a minimum of $500 of income on the side.
5. Go on at least 4 Adventures. I have one family adventure planned and another in mind. I’ve also made some scheduling progress on an individual pursuit. I’ve never set a goal like this before so I’m pretty pumped.

These 5 represent my crazyawesomehellyeah projects. If I accomplish these I’ll have an awesome year and be a little more eccentric than I am now.

What are you planning? I’d love to hear about it.

Happy New Year!

Compulsive Reading

I love reading. I think it is empowering to know that there are instructions for anything you’d like to do if you just open a book. I’ve worked to pass this sense of possibility to my children.

It is possible to read instead of living. It is possible to bury yourself so deeply under the crush of incoming information that you never enact any of it in your life.

Mark Twain said “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them“. What about the man who reads so many that he never pauses to accept their influence?

With my stash at home, the friendly pusher that is The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and my “wanna read” list at weRead.com I fear I’ve fallen into that group.

To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom remove things every day.

I stumbled across the quote above in Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh and I am applying it to my reading habit. I’ve been adding books every day: books read, books to read, books to re-read. I have had enough of that path.

To stop adding things every day:
Until January 1st 2012 I will not procure any new books.
I will <gasp> subsist on books I already own or have already downloaded.
I will allow a minimum of 24 hours to pass between the completion of one book and the start of another.

To remove things every day:
I will not add any books to my list of things to read without first completing and/or deleting 2 other books.