Know when to hold it, know when to fold it

The fun of Ottawa and San Jose
Understanding the starting point

One of the hardest life lessons I’ve learned is this: if the only person who knows (or cares) about a deadline is yourself, it’s not really a deadline — and don’t kill yourself trying to make it. I used to really stress out when I’d commit to something then not make the date because other things came up (even though I felt those things were more important, or out of my control). Even though the only person it mattered to was me.

I finally figured this out, and started teaching myself not to sweat over details that didn’t really matter.  I decided back in 2006 I wanted to try to organize a second career around a camera; I never worked with Bill Atkinson, but you can’t be an Apple geek (or like me, an Apple alum) and not know about Hypercard, and in fact, I did a lot of work in Hypercard over the years. I did work with Dave Cardinal at Apple, and when I started dabbling with digital cameras and then run into their work, it was that seminal eye-opening moment that made me realize that I could make that shift as well, and that was the starting point for this second career planning.

That was in 2005.

In 2007, I thought I’d become a pretty good photographer and started seriously looking to fire up my second career plans. And then I blew out my knee by stepping in a gopher hole, then dad got sick (and then he died) and by the time I surfaced from helping mom through the estate, 2008 was almost over and it was time to try again. Then I landed the gig at Palm, and I knew it was going to an insanely fun few months and it went on hold again. And now it’s almost 2010, and I feel like it’s time to try again. So we will.

That doesn’t mean nothing happened in the meantime. In fact, the delays have been a blessing in disguise. I’ve spent a ot of time and energy in battling bits in photoshop and lightroom, in studying my work and really being honest about my strengths (and flaws) and working to fix the flaws; in studying other photographers and understanding their strengths and how to adapt them into my own work.

In 2007, I thought I was a good photographer. Today, I’m a much better photographer. Sometimes delays can be frustrating, but you turn them to your advantage.

There are always reasons to say “not yet” to your plans; planning is easy — and safe. Doing is hard, involves risk, and may fail. But sometimes, “not yet” is the right decision, even if you don’t like making it at the time. You might miss out on an opportunity, but if your plans are sound and your planning is done well, you’ll run into later opportunities later. (hint: if your plans revolve around a “now or never” situation, it’s probably a badly thought out plan. If you don’t have follow-on opportunities to build your business with, how are you going to grow your business?)

So knowing when to hold it — and using that hold time to improve your chances of later success as you can — can be a positive. You can’t be afraid to say “it’s time” and push the button and make it happen.

At the same time, you have to be realistic, and you can’t force yourself to push the button simply because it’s the date you said you were going to do it on — going in for the wrong reasons and at the wrong time makes the chances of failure skyrocket, and if it fails, it’s going to be harder to generate future opportunities or feel confident about going out and grabbing them when they happen.

There are also times when you simply need to fold the hand and try again. When I left StrongMail, I’d been working on a project called Dare2Thrive, and decided to take some time off and push that project into production. Once I left on my own, some outside factors kicked my motivation in the crotch, and I realized there were some fundamental flaws in my approach that I couldn’t easily solve.

The big one: I was putting myself into primarily an editorial role, not a creative role, and on a long term basis, I decided that was unacceptable; I wanted a situation that focused on my own material rather than creating an environment where I promoted the work of others.

That’s not something you fix by tweaking the CSS.  I realized I needed to start over, tear it down to the bare assumptions, and starting over. I hated the decision at the time; at the time I felt it was fixable, but the external issues I was dealing with made it necessary. I realize now that not only was it the right decision — it saved me from almost certain failure if I’d pushed forward, and that was without taking into consideration what 2008 was going to surprise me with…

Holding it and Folding it. Never fun. To take something you really care about and want to do and stuff it back in the closet is hard. To take it out behind the shed and “Old Yeller” it is traumatic. If it’s the right thing to do, though, it has to be done, and many times, it creates new, better opportunities later if you let it.

And for the record, the core or Dare2Thrive — the piece that first made me want to do the project — is alive and well as part of this new project. And dammit if it isn’t even a better project now than it ever would have been in its original form.

And if anyone wants to buy them, I have the original dare2thrive domains available and parked, at least until I figure out a use for them….

This entry was posted in About Chuq.