This year for Mother’s Day, my wife didn’t want any gifts. All she wanted was a cleaning crew to come to our house and clean everything from top to bottom.
She got a referral from a friend and was ready to set everything up, but being the good (cheap) husband that I am, I told her to let me take care of all the cleaning.
She reluctantly agreed and so the Friday night before Mother’s Day, I told my wife to go upstairs and enjoy the night off.
Then I proceeded to pick up all the toys my kids played with that day. Afterwards cleaning the dishes, followed by cleaning all the counter tops and finally focusing on the grueling task of cleaning the stove top. It was tiring and hard. I spent a total of 4 hours cleaning and it wasn’t as thorough as my wife wanted .
I surprised myself when I realized I had cleaned for four straight hours. Any other night and I would be rushing as quick as possible, trying to minimize the time I spent cleaning, so that I could get to my computer to work on something.
When I stopped to think about what motivated me to clean for four hours straight, I realized it was because my purpose behind cleaning was not to just clean the house for cleaning sake. But it was because I genuinely just wanted to please my wife and make her happy.
By focusing on my wife’s happiness and nothing else, the urge that I usually got from cleaning to hurry and finish so I can work on my own thing went away. The “fatigue” from the day’s work also seemed to disappear as I imagined the smile on my wife’s face when she’d see what I did for her the next morning.
Since the Mother’s Day cleaning, I was pondering the purpose behind the projects that I’ve been working on. Why am I working on these projects? What sort of outcome am I looking to gain from them? Even though I see some tiny wins from them, why do I still not feel satisfied?
I realized, like many nights where I’m loathing the process of cleaning because I’m chasing the hours to sit in front of my computer to work on my projects, I’m not happy with my projects because the focus is wasn’t on the right thing.
Up until now, the focus of all my projects, Field Guide to Jekyll, TinyWins, Triangle Tech Jobs have been to make money. Now making money isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Without making money, none of these projects would be around today (an article for another day). But the amassing of more money became the singular goal for me for these projects. Because of this I started to get tunnel vision and my creativity was running low.
After realizing this, I spent a couple of days mulling over why I work on so many projects. Making money is definitely one of the objectives, but it can’t be the main objective. This is because it’s not enough to motivate me for the long run. For me if the focus is on money then the journey forward is a short one. I had to rediscover the reason why I enjoy working on these projects and even writing on my site — it’s to help people.
Running sustainable projects is definitely something that is important, but beyond that, amassing more money is a focus on myself. Which if I’m being real with myself, I’m only going to be overly harsh on myself and critical in trying to reach a metric that is always unsatisfied. But by focusing on helping others, well then I can get really creative and the positive feeling from helping another person succeed in their endeavor never gets old.
In realizing this, I thought about my book, Field Guide to Jekyll. It has been on the back burners for a very long time (I first announced that I was working on it almost a year and a half ago). A project that I thought would only take a few months to finish, has been stale for over a year. The reason for this was the project started to balloon beyond what I had originally set out to write. It started experiencing “feature creep”.
My progress became paralyzed because there were parts of the book that I honestly didn’t want to write but I felt like I had to write in order for it to be an awesome book for everyone.
Then the fear of, “What if I spent all this time on the book and no one even buys it?” crept in and I was wrestling with throwing in the towel.
But after Mother’s Day, when I had my epiphany that I need to focus on helping folks and not some nonexistent, future sales, I remembered that over the past year and a half I had been collecting emails from folks who were interested in Jekyll and their pains with the tool. I spent an evening reading over the emails of people who emailed me about their Jekyll struggles and realized that there was a similar pattern amongst a lot of people.
This pattern is what I’ve decided should be the focus of the book. After identifying this pattern, I started to get amped up about the book again and now I had something more manageable to chew off. I can cut the fat of all the unneeded materials that I had originally planned for and simply focusing on helping people with their most concerning Jekyll needs.
So the next time I run into a patch where I’m stuck or drained of creativity, I know to take a moment to step back and review my purpose in working on a project. If the purpose is primarily about the benjamins , well then I need to check myself and get back to the path of helping folks as my purpose.