Motivation

I’ve been struggling with motivation of late, and if I’ve ever worked for you, you know that my motivation can be a fickle beast. I think I’ve finally come up with a metaphor that helps me think through my motivational challenges. I present to you my get-stuff-done sailboat.

When I let my mind wander recently, exploring that critical question “what motivates me”, I came up with two answers: 1) I am motivated by creating something that others appreciate, and 2) I am motivated by learning to create something that others appreciate. Learning, creating, and appreciation. Those things fueled my photography career for several years. When I reflect on who I’ve most enjoyed working with, it was those who appreciated my work, and let me know it. Every role that I’ve loved has had ample helpings of learning, creating and appreciation.

In my get-stuff-done sailboat metaphor, I am the boat, and its motion is me getting stuff done. Learning and creation are my sails. And appreciation is the wind in those sails. If a job has ample learning and creation opportunities, then my big sails will catch even the smallest amount of appreciation. If the job has no creativity or learning, then its like my sails are furled, and no amount of appreciation is going to move me forward.

“But isn’t it sad that you can’t do anything without people saying ‘Good job’?” Yes, it would be, but I find that “future me” can appreciate the work I’ve done and that can be enough in some situations.

My sailboat doesn’t have to move just because my creativity sails are filled with appreciation wind. There’s the rowboat of obligation. We all have tasks that we must do that give us no joy–filling out time sheets is one of those for me. So when its time to fill out my weekly time sheet, my sails are furled, and no one says “That was great, Rick”. So obligation moves my boat along. But obligation never moves me as quickly as motivation, so the row boat only helps when the motivation is very low.

And then there’s that anchor. That’s anxiety. I find Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Model helpful here. I feel anxiety when I perceive my skills are not up to the high challenge of a task. And I react to anxiety by shutting down. I avoid doing the thing that needs to be done. Even if my motivational sails are full, if I’m in high anxiety about the task, I’m stuck. And if there’s an obligation row boat trying to coax me along, then I feel a crap tonne of stress. Anxiety Anchor holding me back, mast creaking from the creativity of the task, and obligation row boat tugging at my bow–it can be literally painful.

When I feel that stress, and the realization that I’ve let my anxiety anchor drop finally hits me, I find I can lift that anchor myself. All I have to do is adjust my perception of my skill level. I just acknowledge I don’t know how to get to the end of the task, but I know a first step I can take, and then I’ll figure out the next step. And so on. That’s lifting my anchor, and then motivation and obligation (if needed) can carry me along.

Now for some examples where this metaphor feels like a good fit.

  • Cleaning out the garage so my wife can park her car in it. There’s no obligation row boat because I didn’t commit to doing it, and she didn’t ask me to. There’s no anxiety anchor because the challenge of the task isn’t high, and my skills are easily high enough to accomplish it. The act of creating a clean parking spot isn’t huge, but its definitely enough to catch the appreciation my wife showed at being able to park in the garage. And future me likes having her car in the garage too.
  • Building a development environment for a client. Obligation rowboat is available if needed. I know they’ll appreciate it when its done. The first time through, I enjoyed learning the detailed steps it took, and doing the work of installing the environment. But after we decided to torch it and start over on a different version of Windows, my sails aren’t quite as big. Its a little bit more tedious now. My anxiety anchor was hanging off my stern, but never dropped into the water.
  • Delivering the neighborhood newsletter to 80+ homes. There’s no creation or learning. I know people appreciate the delivery, but it doesn’t move me forward because the task isn’t motivating. I have no anxiety about it at all, so the anchor it sitting in its hold. The obligation row boat moves me along, without hindrance because I promised to doing it.

So that brings me to a problem–if I’ve promised to do something (or I know I have to) but I don’t, pretty much always the answer is anxiety. I have to pull that anchor up so that I can get-stuff-done.

Eclipse 2024

[Disclaimer: I totally failed at using a calendar. April 8, 2024 is a Monday, I think. Ignore my discussion of it being a weekend below until I’ve had a chance to revise this post].

I took this picture, but you could have too. Millions did.
Copyright Oh Who Cares

The year is currently 2017. August 22, to be exact. Do you remember what happened yesterday? It was the “Great American Eclipse” or some other such grandiose name. It was an epic eclipse, crossing the entire country, visible in one way or another from the whole mainland. I went into the totality zone, like millions of others, and these are my notes to the future citizens of planet earth–those people contemplating viewing the 2024 eclipse from the totality zone.

My first thought-do it. It will be April 8, which will be a Saturday (assuming strange things don’t happen before then). Most people will not have to work, but if you do, do your best to get the day off. There won’t be any kids in school, so take them too. The experience is like nothing else, and is rare enough that some people may never get to see one in person. It is a full body experience (ok, I didn’t notice any different scents or tastes, but the other three senses were impacted).

My second thought is-traffic will be worse on April 8 2024 than it was August 21, 2017. I’ll guess it will be three or four times worse. Maybe a hundred. Whatever, traffic will be bad. So here are my suggestions for dealing with it.

  • Do not travel to small towns who are marketing themselves to eclipse watchers. In all likelihood, they won’t really know how to deal with the influx. Hopkinsville, KY made this mistake in 2017, and it took people 3+ hours just to get out of “Hoptown”. The town is maybe 7 miles in diameter. It should take 20 minutes to fully cross, and only 10 minutes to get out. 18 times normal. That’s pretty bad.
  • Do not travel large distances, and hope to get home the day of the eclipse. I personally know one family that spent 16 hours driving what would normally be a 6 hour trip. My personal experience wasn’t quite so bad: 9 hours to travel what normally would have been 5.5. Your mileage may vary, but assume a factor of 2-3 times normal.
  • If you’re going to arrange for a place to stay in totality, stay there for a night or two after the eclipse. I’m pretty sure, based on the level of traffic after the 2017 eclipse that most people had arranged to arrive early, but then EVERYONE left at the same time.

Finally, make sure you provide for shade and toilet needs on the time approaching the eclipse. I had only half planned for these details, and they ended up working out in my favor. I willingly paid $20 to hang out in a municipal park where there were flush toilets, trees, and emergency services if they were needed.

Reading recent and/or popular books for free

OK, yes, I know. Everyone knows about the Columbus Metropolitan Library. It’s freaking awesome.

If you know about the awesomeness of the CML, then you probably know that you can download books to your Kindle (or Kindle app), or your Nook (or other epub reader). That nifty feature is right under the “Explore” menu, under ECONTENT (sic), which is managed by Overdrive.com.

There aren’t millions of books available like there are in print (just under 100k at the time of writing), and I’ve recently been frustrated that several of my searches came up with ebooks that were all checked out. But, and here’s the cool part, you can filter any search on Overdrive to show you only the books that are available for immediate download. For example, here are all the ebooks in Non-fiction, Business, Available Now–with the most recent additions at the top.

But my favorite way to sort is by Popularity (Global). They don’t describe how they measure popularity, but that’s OK with me–I get to see all the top books that are available to download RIGHT FREAKING NOW. FOR FREE!!!

So lets summarize what it takes to get a new thriller onto your device:

  1. For Columbus Library members, you can go straight to clc.overdrive.com
  2. Click Subjects in the top menu.
  3. Under Subjects, click EBOOKS so that you don’t see audio books or videos.
  4. Click the subject of interest. For example Thriller, under the Fiction heading.
  5. Under Availability on the left, click Available Now.
  6. The default list puts the most recent additions at the top. If you want the most popular titles at the top of the list, choose Popularity (global) from the sort list in the upper right.
  7. Click borrow. You may then have to give your library card number.
  8. A banner appears telling you to check your Loans page. Click the link.
  9. Now you need to choose your ebook format. Click read in browser to, um, read it in your browser.  If you want to add it to your Kindle, choose that format. You’ll be taken to Amazon.com where you’ll need to click Get Library Book to have it delivered to your Kindle (or other Kindle-app enabled device).

OK, its not sooper easy, but its only about 9 clicks to get a book on your device, free of charge. Score!

 

Culture of Alcoholism

002_7619In the US of A, alcohol is everywhere, and those who consume it (or sell to those who consume it) seem to think that everyone consumes it. And not only does it seem like there’s an assumption of consumption, but that consuming to excess is tacitly encouraged. Case in point: a tech industry user conference I recently went to. To be clear, this particular conference was no different than any other in regards to alcohol. I’m using it to illustrate my point regarding our culture as a whole.

It was a two day conference with invite-only meetings the day before.

  • Monday, after invite only meetings, participants in my meeting were invited to head to the hotel bar for sponsor-paid-for drinks. An executive level meeting had alcohol flowing throughout the day.
  • Tuesday, at an invite-only lunch (but it wasn’t hard to get an invite), champagne was handed out at the door “for a toast”. Then glasses were refreshed 45 minutes later. No toast was ever made.
  • Tuesday late afternoon, the “partner pavilion” had free alcohol. Two different people assumed that I was on my way to get something to drink when I was talking to partners.
  • Tuesday evening dinner was paid for by a vendor. This was a close-knit group of coworkers and employees of the vendor, so only about half of the people present drank, and it was in moderation. I think there was an invite to head to the hotel bar afterwards, but I declined.
  • Wednesday happy hour in the partner pavilion had free drinks again.
  • Wednesday evening, immediately following the happy hour, we went to a “final party” event featuring a 90’s band. While walking into the venue, people were pushing glasses of unspecified mixed drinks into attendees hands.

002_7629Never mind that there were a couple of open bars in the venue. Never mind that people arriving had already been consuming if they had chosen. Someone thought “We need to get alcohol into their bellies as quickly as possible. Don’t make them wait in line at the bar for their next drink. Don’t make them grab a prepared drink from a tray. Shove it right into their hands.”

002_7620You know how its hard to not take something that is handed to you? People handing out leaflets know this–get it into their hands so that maybe they’ll look at it. Laws in Las Vegas specifically prohibit this kind of behavior for the people hawking escort services. I had to actively turn down the drink that was pushed at me. I had to resist the automatic behavior and say “no thanks” before I had stepped 5 feet beyond the door.

I’m not upset that alcohol was offered. It was pushed. It was pushed to people who had ample opportunity to drink prior to the event had they chosen to. This is the culture of alcoholism–the inherent assumption that everyone needs more to drink.