The King of Side-Jobs: Bad Dad

…I don’t want to become the bad dad.

It seems like I read a lot of “don’t be defined by your job” or “unfortunately, the first question asked upon meeting someone new is ‘so what do you do for a living?'”

“But Bryan, the work I do doesn’t really define me.”

Well, maybe you’re doing the wrong thing.

My current work situation probably hits closer to the definition of me than any other snapshot in time. I’m teaching, writing music and sharing my spirituality. A few weeks ago I configured a network, this week I’m doing web design, and next week I might do some software testing. This is a perfect definition of how bad my ADHD really is.

In my adolescence (some would argue that I’m still there), one of the biggest aids to productivity, progress and success was structure. “Bryan needs rules and framework to work effectively.” Sometimes I feel like working effectively meant producing black and white cows.

A simple example: In High School, just after diagnosis, I was regularly dosed with time-released Ritalin. The point was to get me to focus on one task at a time and finish it. As a member of the Jazz Ensemble (and coming from a family who reared talented jazz musicians), one of my favorite things was jazz and blues improvisation. While my medicine was doing its thing to get me to focus, I couldn’t find my zone while playing piano. Off the medicine, improvisation was creative, fun and entertaining. It was different enough that others could tell.

Ritalin was structure. Specific rules about when homework or chores needed to be done were structure. Getting a job with a large corporation: structure. Structure is necessary for me to overcome my obstacle. Disciplining myself to create my own framework, rules, and protocol to provide this structure is even better.

So now I have systems. They don’t kill my creativity. They don’t keep me in a 4’x4′ box all day. But I’ve learned how to effectively manage multiple side-jobs quite effectively. Then my systems break down.

It’s hard to put your family in a system.

The wires in my brain need to be shorted out because I haven’t been able to systemize the #1 priority in my life on earth. It isn’t a chore, it isn’t work. It’s one of my favorite things in the world to play with my daughters. It’s really difficult, however, to remember in the midst of getting things done, that soon my little girls aren’t going to be so little anymore. It’s time I can’t get back. Most of the work things I do aren’t time critical. I really think it’s the act of checking an accomplished task off a list that pushes me towards urgency.

Time to reprogram the noodle. I’ve been doing hypnotherapy for weight-loss (I’ve lost 10 pounds in less than a month). I’m thinking about getting the hypnotist to work on relaxing my sense of urgency.

I believe it’ll help me out a lot.

And now it’s time to go play kitchen with a wonderful toddler.

Who does Yahoo! think they are? (or How To Turn Away Your Biggest Fans)

Flickr: Really cool.

Yahoo!: Really big.

I decided to use a Flickr account for the youth group that I work with at church. In order to do so, I needed to create a Yahoo! account (yes, I got in after the acquisition). I created one, uploaded some pictures and then went a few weeks without signing in.

Of course, I forgot my sign-in information. I’m not a one-password-fits-all guy because that’s just too easy.

Here’s where the ridiculousness of big Yahoo! comes into play. A password retrieval from Yahoo! now requires your month, day and year of birth and your zip code.

Normally, I’m pretty honest on web forms and stuff in case someone decides to do something like this. But I don’t go back and check the form two or three times to make sure I didn’t fat-finger my birthday. It’s never mattered before.

OK, fine. They’re looking out for my security. I guess I’ll send a request to customer service and maybe they can help. No such luck. This was included in the automated response: “Please remember that Customer Care may not reset your password…”

This means I’ll have to start over again, I suppose.

  1. Go create yet another Yahoo! account (which I can’t use my existing email address for – so I’ll need another email address).
  2. Create another Flickr account.
  3. Upload all of my pictures again.

Or, I could go find another service that hasn’t been swallowed by Yahoo! and post my pictures there.

And encourage all of my friends to do the same.

What Happened?

Last Friday I celebrated my last day of work in a job I wasn’t suited for. On Monday evening, I flew to New Jersey to teach a 3-day class on a technical certification. Right before I boarded my plane home, my worst short-term fear was realized. The project: cancelled. I return home from my first gig essentially unemployed. Maybe I didn’t do an effective job managing my own expectations. Maybe I left a hole in my plan. Where’s plan B?

Unfortunately, there is a complex plan B gotcha. Before disaster, plan B seems like a silly — almost pessimistic — exercise. After disaster, plan B (or C or D or E) is an order of magnitude more difficult. After disaster, plan B becomes plan A. Now plan B doesn’t seem so silly, does it?

Right now, at 34,000 feet, the cities, roadways, and earth all look a lot smaller than they do when I’m lost in Newark or at home worrying about next month’s mortgage. February 9th, 2006 will look less and less significant as I take off from this runway. I know it will work out. I have enough faith in God and in myself to know that in 6 months, I’ll have something much more trivial to worry about.

There are a few odds-and-ends facts about me that seem relevant tonight.

  • I’m impulsive: I make decisions quickly.
  • I’m resiliant: Even though I take first hits poorly, I quickly decide (see the last fact) that it’s not worth worrying over (will I care about this in six months?).
  • I’m brilliant: Impulsive decision-making and poor-planning notwithstanding, I learn quickly, retain everything and am passionate about sharing knowledge.

Side note: I’m flying over DC right now and (in the dark) the Washington Monument is lit and clearly identifiable from 34,000 feet. Good design.

I’ll get back to bragging about myself (I don’t do this often, so let me have my moment).

This week reminded me how much I love teaching people things that I’m interested in. I’m good at it too. I guess that makes sense; My dad was a good teacher. Now I’ve got a fresh infusion of teaching mojo and no students to teach.

I think a lot about finding a purple cow. I am a purple cow.

  • I’m ideological (that’s dangerous).
  • I’m enterprising: I appreciate the freedom to make a difference.
  • I’m creative.
  • I’m personable. I like people and I’m easy to get along with.
  • I’m purple. There aren’t many people like me, you see. I have quirky behaviors, quirky memories, and off-the-wall ideas.

This is little more than a bragstream. Maybe it’ll give me enough motivation to completely turn this situation around in a few weeks time. Let’s hope so, I can’t afford any more plane tickets right now.

Use Your Experts Wisely

Congratulations on your new company. I hope you’ve found some experts that you expect to make your job as CEO easier. Hire a graphic artist to do your graphics, give him direction, but don’t hold his hand. That’s his thing. Hire an accountant to take care of payroll and taxes. Don’t ask him to cook the books for you. Hire a marketing guy to help design your product*.

Many CEOs (I’ve seen it too many times to count) have the best way around every problem. Or so they think. Maybe they do. Maybe they should be a one-man show. If you’ve made the decision to hire someone as an expert, let them be your expert. You’ll help out the company by getting the job done by someone who knows what’s up. You’ll become an employer people are dying to work for because they’re allowed to be creative, allowed to do their jobs, allowed to recycle the positive energy you’re helping them create.

Expect personal news from Bryan soon.

*This fact is outside the realm of this post, but make sure you go read Purple Cow by Seth Godin.

Meetings: Good Idea, Bad Idea

It seems that the one carryover from brick-and-mortar, manual, old school business to the new knowledge-based economy is that upper management likes to have meetings. Meetings are necessary. Meetings suck. Here’s my meeting school:

Meetings are good:

  • Task assignments are best identified by the team, rather than just direct orders by a superior.
  • Resource allocations are easier with the minds of many.
  • Well executed meetings facilitate brainstorms.

Meetings are bad:

  • Tyrants use meetings for short-sighted task assignments.
  • Long or frequent meetings waste the time of the team.
  • Reactionary meetings facilitate blamestorming.

Make your next meeting productive. Set a timer, bring a list of things to talk about, don’t shoot down ideas, and come up with next action lists.

Motivation

Happy New Year! I think. Hopefully your endeavors for the year are off to a good start.

If you’re a leader working to motivate people, I have some ideas for you.

  • Compensation alone can only motivate temporarily. Substantially higher pay for mundane work may get Samuel motivated to work on a project for a very short period of time, but if your project will last for a long time, he’ll get bored and stop producing.
  • Substandard compensation is only sufficient if people love what they’re doing. In the depths of human subconscious, love is a much stronger motivator than money.
  • People who cannot envision the possibility of a completed project, they can’t be driven to it. “This task is impossible” will break even the most contrarian initiators if they actually believe it’s impossible.
  • Tell the truth, at all costs. Even if you think you’re pulling the wool over their eyes, they’ve got you figured out. Even if you think the truth will cause mutiny, the silent mutiny caused by a lie will break your team.

Are you motivated to do what you’re supposed to be doing right now?

Day 41 of 48

Only one week left. I’ve made substantial progress internally, and have started to build a network of people who I believe will be instrumental in the journey. I have been with the book for several weeks, had time to reflect and have taken away the following:

  1. Being successful and sustaining by doing what you love is possible.
  2. Doing what you love is your best chance at finding success.
  3. Some people may find their passion working for someone else, some working for themselves.
  4. If you’d love to work for yourself, make it happen in a way that works for you. You don’t necessarily need to quit your job and start bootstrapping it tomorrow.
  5. Following through on an action plan is the only way to reach your goals.

There have already been some obstacles, and there will be more. Even though I’ve still got a week left, I’m now officially moonlighting as a composer/songwriter. If you’ve got a use for music in a multimedia production, video game, film, programming, advertising, or presentation, let me know. I’m interested in entertaining working on projects of any size.

There’s my plug, and you should do it too. Anyone making the switch to your passion, let us all know what services you’re providing and how we can get in touch with you in the comments (I won’t mark your plugs as spam).

Day 35 of 48

Last week, I finally finished 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller. The rest of the 48 days are dedicated to getting my music composition business off the ground. I’ve identified my strengths, weaknesses and passion core. I’ve learned what needs to be done to be successful.

There are two basic paths that the book may lead you on. The first is finding a job. I have a substantial amount of evidence that says this isn’t the proper path for me. The second is how to create a business out of what you really love doing.

The latter path suggests taking on your business as a sideline until it replaces your regular income. That is the plan. What I don’t think I can handle is the scenario where I’m not ready to exclusively run the business but my ‘day job’ ceases to exist. For now, I’m taking one step at a time.

I’m running in parallel on four types of music projects right now:

  • I’ve always been interested in writing video game music. I’ve got a sample I wrote for a prospective game developer at http://typica.cyefi.com.
  • I worked on a dance-inspired electronica project a few years ago called Rain Pilot. I’m interested in reviving that if there are people interested in hearing it. Some of the old stuff has been published at http://rainpilot.cyefi.com.
  • Since I’ve got children now, I’ve been inspired to work on some children’s electronica so my girls can listen to dad’s music while they sleep. The start of this project is at http://unclewidget.cyefi.com.
  • My main project is trooperseven. This is dance-rock that I’m planning to take to stage. I’d like to hear this stuff on independent films, college radio stations, advertisements, and the like. I publish unfinished and unpolished demos at http://trooperseven.com.

I’m excited about these changes, and thankful for having stumbled across Dan’s Book. Pick up a copy today.