Even if (especially if?)

Progress is never a straight line.
If you chart where you’ve been and where you are you’ll get a jagged, Himalayan line that reflects in some small way the struggles you’ve seen.

I realized this because I’m in one of the valleys of such a graph.

I recently was at a peak of progress:
A 16 mile hiking adventure in the mountains.
Ready to shape the sheerstrake for my boat.
Shrinking waistline from my dietary changes and workouts.
Consistent writing on my blog.
Completed business plan for a new venture.

And then it all changed.

I started reading a lot (again) and have spent less time writing.
My business partner has been very busy and our progress has stalled.
My shoulder injury is making most exercise difficult and sapping my enthusiasm.
The next step of the boat is the most important line & I’ve been stuck for weeks figuring how to do it beautifully and well.
I don’t have any new adventures on the calendar.

My momentum on the crazyAwesomeHellYeahProjects ground to a dispiriting halt.

What do you do when faced with the challenge of starting again?

You start.

I don’t mean to be glib, but it really is that simple.
You can only ever be doing what you are doing. If you are thinking about starting, or planning to start, or scheming on how to beat the resistance to starting then you aren’t starting.

Just start.

What’s the smallest step you can possibly take to get the ball rolling again?

Take it. Start.

Write that blog post. Even if (especially if?) you’re not sure if it’s good enough.
Develop the minimum economically viable offering for your business. Even if (especially if?) the idea embarrasses you.
Make an appointment with a doctor to find out why you’re in pain. Even if (especially if?) you’re afraid you may need surgery.
Prepare the materials for the boat. Even if (especially if?) you’re afraid you’ll ruin it.
Brainstorm with your children for the next adventure. Even if (especially if?) you’re afraid the ideas won’t be “practical” or “affordable”.

 

What’s the smallest step you can take to advance a goal?

 

Tell me in the comments. Even if (especially if?) you’re afraid to say it out loud.


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.


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!


Adventure #1 Recap

Let’s hear it for the Rainbow Tour, it’s been an incredible success.
-Tim Rice, Evita

So, I’m back from my minimalish travel adventure. If you didn’t read the original post, I took my family to Disney World for 9 days taking only the items that fit in a small backpack.
The night before our departure I looked at a final weather report and traded my 2nd pair of pants for a pair of shorts. Other than that my packing matched the pics from the earlier post.

My biggest surprise was that I was still over-packed. Once you decide to wash and re-wear during a trip your clothing needs drop almost to zero.

Items that turned out to be completely extra: two t-shirts, three pairs of socks, one baseball cap and a pair of underwear. If it hadn’t been so cold in Cincinnati I could have skipped the jeans as well.

What I didn’t know at the time of my last post was how little the rest of the family was bringing. All in all, we had 5 people packed in 4 carry on bags (princess and pirate costumes included). In addition, we took one carry-on full of breakfasts for the trip (you don’t want to buy five $7 muffins and $6 drinks for 9 straight days) and one bag of stuff to entertain the kids through airports, flights, etc.

After we cleared security in Orlando we had some time to kill before our return flight. I looked around at my family. The 2 year old was sleeping in our stroller, 6 & 8 year olds sprawled on the concourse floor reading, and Jeanne knitting. I was struck by how smooth it all was. The kids have done the security drill enough times that it’s no big deal (2 year old is a wild card there, but still…). In another year the big kids will have less struggle handling their own bags and the two year old won’t need to be carried as much to keep up. Where couldn’t we go?

I’ve dreamed of taking the whole family to Europe for a long time, but over the years I’ve had 3 concerns about taking such a trip.

  • First, what will customs/border security be like? I remember West German security tearing apart toys in a search in the 80s and I hadn’t crossed a border since September 11th. What should we expect? (Got this answered traveling to Mexico, summer 2011)
  • Second, you have to pack light. There was a time when we packed so heavily that we couldn’t have gotten our bags where they needed to be without curbside check-in at the airport. That doesn’t really lend itself to moving around unfamiliar destinations with a language barrier thrown in for fun.
  • Third, the security line is a place of very little power for travelers; you really want some solid expectations about how your kids will behave. If one of them wanders off into a secure area would you be able to retrieve them without shutting the airport down? Would that get you detained? Arrested?

I have my questions answered. We’re ready.

Oh, and one thing we didn’t over-pack?
Diapers.

The flight home was a little bit of a gamble.
-Charlie


Adventure #1

One of my goals for 2012 is to go on adventures.

When I committed myself to this goal it was pretty amorphous. I didn’t know what the adventures might be, I didn’t know how many to commit to, and I didn’t know if they would involve my whole family or be more personal in nature.

I still don’t have everything planned, but <drum roll> I’m pleased to announce Adventure #1:

I am making an experiment with minimalish travel on my family’s upcoming trip to Disney World.

About a year ago I started mindfully removing the excess from my life. In keeping with that theme I’m interested to find out how little I can travel with. I traveled light to Mexico this summer, but this will be my first trip where I will have to wash and re-wear clothing to get through the week.

Here are pictures of everything I’m bringing…

“OMG, he didn’t pack a toothbrush!”
-My wife has the whole family’s toiletries in her bag so I didn’t show any of that.

Clothes
My biggest concerns are all about the weather.

  • Florida gets lots of rain, sometimes. Should I bring a raincoat, or is that just excess stuff to carry around? Maybe a pocket size poncho?
  • What will the temperature be like? The last time I visited Florida was during the Vancouver Olympics…it was warmer in Vancouver. Should I bring a jacket?
  • What footwear will be best for 7-10 miles of daily walking, carrying kids, pushing strollers, and handling changing weather conditions? A second pair of shoes takes a lot of space, but starting the day in yesterday’s soggy gym shoes is a recipe for blisters and I doubt they’ll let me go barefoot.

Stuff
The biggest change for me is reducing the amount of stuff I bring along to do. In the past I would have brought my PC, phone, 2-3 magazines, a couple of books, my rooted nook color, an iPod of music, and an iPod of French language podcasts. Isn’t that ridiculous?

This time I’m bringing my HP Elitebook, the rooted nook color, phone, chargers, and a moleskine journal. My hope is that the PC never comes out of the bag and the phone never rings. However, being prepared for that is part of my job so I’ll bring them along. The nook color will keep me occupied on the flights and has a guidebook loaded for the rest of the week. The moleskine is just more fun to write in than Evernote.

In addition to what is shown in the photographs I have a diaper bag inside the backpack. This second bag is a feature of diapers and children’s snacks. One day it will stay home when we travel.

Today is not that day.


Hearing of people living with 100 things or fewer, I can’t say I am minimalist, but I think minimalish fits. I’m excited about stripping away the excess from my life in order to make space for the things that matter. I’m looking forward to taking another step down that path, I’m sure it will be an adventure.

For information on minimalist travel check out these posts at Zen Habits and Miss Minimalist.
My efforts look pretty weak compared to these two, but you start where you are right?


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?
-Charlie