Many years ago, my best friend introduced me to an alternative to new year’s resolutions—new year’s themes. The large majority of new year’s resolutions aren’t even specific enough to be set as measurable goals (e.g. exercise more, read more books), and they are notoriously forgotten within a few months. So that’s why every year I set a theme. They give me a meta-goal to keep in mind, they encompass a whole way of thinking about the year, and they’re easy to remember.
2010, for example, was the Year of Debt Repayment and the Year of Focal Length Designs. Everything I chose to do during that year was measured against its relevance to the theme. I made significant headway that year on paying off some bad debt, and Focal Length Designs flourished as I expanded it to new regions and markets. It was a good year.
A Thwarted Annual Review
Taking a page from Chris Guillebeau‘s book (quite literally), this December I intended on conducting an annual review of 2012, Year of Focus. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out so well. Despite having an unprecedented 12 days off of work for the holidays, I slipped on some snowy steps in Southern Oregon two days before Christmas and broke my wrist in two places.
The two weeks that followed were a Vicodin-induced haze wherein all I could bring my brain to do was play Angry Birds and watch 30 Rock on Netflix. Ah, narcotics, such fun times! My allotted time for introspection was postponed, and since catching up at work became the priority after the new year, I never did get a chance to sit down and focus on the Year of Focus. Ironic? Oh yes. But there’s no time like the present.
2012: Year of Focus
When 2012 rolled into my sights, I was already on track to the biggest leap in my professional life—I decided in November 2011 that once the holiday craft show season drew to a close, I would close up shop on making camera lens bracelets and move on to other things. I admitted to myself that I could not devote the time required to fully developing the business and accepted that there were more important projects approaching on the horizon.
- I closed up shop on Focal Length Designs to focus on other projects.
- I committed to a promotion at work to lead our in-house graphic design team to focus on my own professional development.
- I consolidated a desktop and old laptop computer into a single, new laptop to focus my ability to work productively.
- I quit Facebook to focus my free time on more productive efforts.
- I spent considerable time writing for this blog to focus on developing my writing skills and sharing my experience with my peers.
- I stepped down as co-chair of the I Heart Art: Portland project to focus my community-building efforts on my passion project, Maker’s Nation.
- Closing FLD—my workshop was located at my parents’ blueberry farm outside of Portland, and in March they took a job opportunity in Detroit, Michigan and sold the farm. That was good timing.
- The experience gained in my 14 months as design manager has been immense, and I’m extremely grateful for it. The projects I’ve managed have taught me that my passion for design is best channeled through art direction and project management.
- I penned 38 articles in 2012 right here on The Ambidextrous Brain blog.
- I successfully used Harvest to track my time spent on various side projects and now have a much better understanding of how much time I spend on certain things.
What Didn’t Work:
- The summer months at work comprised a lot of high-stress projects that wiped me of motivation to focus on the important side projects, including Maker’s Nation and the blog.
- Closing FLD meant I wasn’t making with my hands any more. I thought that writing would suffice as a creative outlet, and for the most part it’s fulfilling, but I miss that cold workshop, the gray aluminum dust that coated everything, and the process of transforming a discarded object into a beautiful adornment.
Sources of Pride and Accomplishment:
- Taking a Winter getaway in Puerto Vallarta in January.
- Walking away from Facebook.
- Laying the groundwork for Maker’s Nation.
- Having our picture taken with President Obama at a campaign fundraiser luncheon in July.
- Going to space (kind of) with Project Zephyr—we sent a weather balloon with a GoPro camera 115,000 feet into the troposphere and collected over 2,200 photos including a view that stretched from Northern California to Victoria Island.
- Giving my first keynote presentation, Flourish, at the School House Craft conference in Seattle in September.
- Turning 30 years old.
Books Read (in chronological order):
- Deep Economy, by Bill McKibben
- Zilch, by Nancy Lublin
- Linchpin, by Seth Godin
- Start With Why, by Simon Sinek
- Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon
- The $100 Startup, by Chris Guillebeau
- The Manual (Issue 1), edited by Andy McMillan
- Blink, by Malcom Gladwell
- The Shape of Design, by Frank Chimero
- Blog Inc., by Joy Deangdeelert Cho
- Free Agent Nation, by Dan Pink
- Tribes, by Seth Godin
2013: Year of Nation-Building
Last year was about internal focus, and now it’s time to focus my energy outward for 2013. This is the Year of Nation-Building, and more specifically, the year of Maker’s Nation. In some ways it also means continuing my inner focus to be able to channel it outward. That means it’s the year for quitting my job, the year of seeking freelance work as a project manager and creative consultant, and the year of pursuing my own goals and dreams. It is, in fact, the year of my art.
- I will be strong and healthy. I will use my medical insurance while I have it and make sure my house is in order.
- I will confront my fears. Projecting a freelance budget is scary, there is no guaranteed income, and there are lots of unknowns. I need to address the potential for failure and how I will measure and pursue success. But most of all, I will leap.
- I will build a community, a tribe, a nation of like-minded thinkers, makers, and doers that believe in and will join me on this journey.
Build it Together
One person doesn’t build a nation alone—I need your help. Right now, I’d like your enthusiasm and your ideas. Sign up for the Maker’s Nation mailing list, have coffee with me and learn more, follow Maker’s Nation on Twitter, send me links with ideas and useful information, or do whatever you feel is necessary. I’m also accepting donations to help with the startup of this organization. If you’re interested in giving financial support, contact me and let me tell you more about what Maker’s Nation is and how we’re doing it.
And if you’d like to consider me as a freelance project manager or creative consultant, get in touch and let’s make it happen.