I died about this time last week.
Obviously, it didn’t stick.
But that’s beside the point. Sometimes, life presents these kind of moments where you have a chance to kind of look back and assess where you are. I typically do this over Dead Week (irony is not lost on me), but being dead made me think that maybe this is something that should happen more than once a year.
For example, I’ve been letting everything in the world get between me and you. You guys, you’re the best, and I’ve not blogged at you for like… well, too damn long. And I have a lot of information packed into my brain that you probably could use for something. Even if that’s an example of what not to do. Like die unexpectedly. Don’t do that.
We All Lose Our Way Sometimes
Last year, another death sent me reeling ’round about this time. My good pal the Honorary Honorable William Bradberry shed this mortal coil. I spiraled for a while because it turned out that I had never bothered to imagine a world where he wasn’t. He was sick, it was a long march to ruin. I had time, but I didn’t.
We had several group projects going that we never finished (and now we never will), pet projects that we’d touch for a while when work was slow, but never really had a good plan to focus them in with. Some were pretty good, some were fucking awful. But it didn’t matter, because sometimes you do the thing just to do the thing.
Anyway, when he passed on, I should have taken the time to recalibrate my compass, but I didn’t. Instead, I just sort of marched forward, best I could. There was always the next project, the next blog, the next client. Before I knew it, it was Dead Week and I hadn’t finished anything I wanted to accomplish for the sheer sake of ticking it off my list.
I did put some wheels into motion at the beginning of this year (big announcement coming soon), but as the months between January and today came and went like so many sprockets on a conveyor belt, I began to doubt and fear that I’d never find my way through the complicated workflow. In fact, last Thursday, I was almost certain I was going to give up.
And then I died.
Recalibrating Your Project Compass
There wasn’t a bright light or an angelic choir (I mean, did you really expect I’d be escorted into the Great Beyond with such a thing?), not even smoke-belching flames. I was under anesthesia and suddenly, I didn’t have any blood pressure. I didn’t know I had died until I woke up in a recovery ward, surrounded by strangers that seemed to be waiting with bated breath.
As far as I knew, I was good. They told me otherwise.
It’s a terrifying thing to realize how many loose threads you almost left behind. At least, it was for me. I resolved to find my compass again and recalibrate it, because it was clearly not showing me good information. It was saying “tomorrow, tomorrow” when it should have said “right the fuck now.”
I’m struggling to find the words to put to this, but I’m afraid that if I don’t write it out while I’m in that “I almost died, here’s my epiphany” mode, I’ll never do it. That’s the right the fuck now part. This attitude won’t last forever. That compass needs daily maintenance, you know.
Next time you find yourself listing to the left or the right of your intentions, recalibrating your compass may help. This is what I’m doing and what I do when I realize I’m dangerously off course:
Assess where you are. You have to be brutally honest with yourself when you’re in this stage of the game. Did you really mean to end up in Toledo? I mean, really? No one wants to go there. Ohio is the worst. Just having this discussion means that you probably know you’re in the wrong place, own it.
Figure out where you want to be. Hopefully you took some time to write down your original destination back when you headed out. If not, there’s no time like now to sort that. Even if you did, you might have learned something that changed the picture. Stop reading right now and figure out where you’re going.
Write out the major steps to get back on track. Think it’s trite all you like, but without a map, that compass is pretty damn useless. It won’t give you all the answers on its own, it’s just a tool to help interpret the data you’ve got. Write your steps down. Using a tool like Any.do or AirTable can help you see where you need to be and when as you walk along.
Consciously review this plan weekly or monthly. Just because you set off in the right direction doesn’t mean that you didn’t manage to somehow take a wrong turn or get led astray by temptation. The best part of a good plan is the way you can constantly revisit it to make sure you’re progressing. That’s why writing down all those steps helps so much.
Celebrate when you realize you did the thing! Did you find your destination? HOORAY! YOU DID THE THING! This is definitely a time to celebrate and take a breath. You accomplished something most people only dream about. Good on ya!
I died on Thursday, May 17, 2018, and I was reminded what it means to be alive. I am a walking cliche. But that’s ok, because it turns out that old cliches are pretty useful for content marketing.
Now get the fuck off the Internet and do something. Don’t get hit by a self-driving cars in your eagerness, though. Always look both ways.