I’m taking a course on The Future. Normally I wouldn’t go for something with such an obscure title, but the author who’s leading it is like a living legend amongst my tiny group of fellow authors. He does these little 5 to 8-minute videos of himself free-talking on a topic. It seems like blathering down a bunch of rabbit trails, but I’ve learned this is sometimes how wisdom is imparted.
He also charges a hefty tuition for what amounts to 2 hours of video watching and homework each week of the six-week course. This probably has something to do with why I view the course as so valuable. The great thing is that I can watch all of the weeks’ videos in one 45-minute workout on the elliptical and then take another 15 minutes to do the week’s assignment. Then I’m done until the following Wednesday when he releases the next set of videos.
The Future is unlike any other writing-related course I’ve ever taken. There are no fundamentals followed by step by step screen flows of how to set up a Google Ads account, or convoluted discussions of new strategies for effective advertising on Amazon. Those strategies and techniques and procedures are always changing, and it takes me a great deal of time to work through the constantly updated course modules. Before I enrolled in The Future course I was running the hamster wheel; an endless loop of learning, trying, failing, getting updates on how to do it now as opposed to two weeks ago when I first learned, trying failing, and again getting updates because of another round of changes. I needed a break. The timing of The Future was perfect.
There are four six-week courses bundled into The Future. I already finished the first six-week course. The focus was to renew and refresh what already exists and to consider a different mindset about my author career. Through this first phase, the instructor encouraged me to write to entertain myself. That one idea, to write to entertain myself, silenced all the should’s, how-to’s, and oughta’s that constantly roll around in my thoughts. And the writing became much easier. My husband said I seemed more relaxed.
I was late to the start of the second six-week course because it took a little time and effort to scratch the tuition together. The first week’s lectures amounted to an introduction and overview of what’s coming. Usually easy stuff, but not so this time. The assignment was to list all the opportunities I currently see and break them into two sub-lists. The first list would be the ones I’m going to pursue and why. The second would be the ones I’m going to pass on for now, and why.
He told the class to take a first pass and then let it sit a few days before going back to it. That’s wisdom talking. All the other courses I’ve taken create an “it’s a race” kind of mentality about learning and implementing the new techniques in order to mine the golden vein of sales before it dries up. It can make you crazy with anxiety and feelings of inadequacy listening to stories about all the authors cleaning up on Amazon.
So, I like this guy. He gives me permission to focus on writing and building inventory without getting too distracted checking numbers and monitoring ads and creating FB Ad graphics and writing copy. And watching my bank account dry up.
Diligent student that I am, I’ve already developed a first pass list of my current opportunities; both those I plan to “pursue” and those I have decided to “defer.” What I discovered is that most of the “opportunities” are actually ideas of my own. Believe me, I’m full of ideas all the time. After looking at my list, I decided to put all the ideas on the “defer” list.
I narrowed the definition of opportunities to mean something concrete that has come my way unexpectedly, or my circumstances have converged in a way that creates a new and real opportunity. In other words, anything I just came up with for no reason other than fear of boredom got demoted to the “defer” list.
The other aspect I considered was whether there were any outside expectations, like a client needs it by a certain date, or a reader wants to read the next installment of my fiction serial at some point during their lifetime. Those types of things went to the top of the “pursue” list.
Oh, and if there was a potential to make money, it made the “pursue” list. I need to cover my editor costs by some means other than robbing the family emergency fund.
And finally, to get on the “pursue” list, it had to give me joy and/or be entertaining.
Oh yeah, and free or low cost to do.
See how this works? Wisdom deals with reality and brings clarity. And she’s not afraid to say “no.”
My final “Pursue” list contains three things that I love to do: write, design, and build things. They’re also things that will serve the needs of other people in the near term, and things that could eventually generate another source of income.
- For example, my daughter’s otolaryngology surgeon frequently travels to third world countries and performs cleft palate corrective procedures for kids who would otherwise go without. He funds these trips in part using the sales proceeds from his single vineyard winery in the Napa/Sonoma area. On the morning of my daughter’s last surgery, he mentioned he’d seen my new website and asked if I’d be willing to design a label for a new line of wines. The name of the line is “About Face.” Enough said.
My final “Defer” List contains things that make me groan at the thought of the tedium involved, the frustration promised, or the money required to make it happen.
- For example, one of the deferred items is to spend money on advertising for my cover design services and my books. You may be surprised at that one. Here’s why they’re on the list. I happen to have two huge design and build projects on my plate, so taking on a cover design project would set me up to disappoint new customers. I don’t want to do that, so I’ll wait to get the word out until I’m ready to take on the work. As for advertising my books, I’ve decided to wait until all five books in my thriller serial are done and published before I make another big marketing push. That way I won’t lose any more of my readers who don’t like cliffhangers, and I won’t be throwing good money after bad.
Okay, that’s enough. There are more examples I could offer, but you get the point. Why did I take the time to blog about this?
First, because it’s on my mind today.
Second, because it’s not something I’ve ever done. Not like this. Sure, I fiddle with my to do list everyday, but I’ve never taken a wholistic view of all the opportunities swirling around in my sphere of life, and then make thoughtful choices about which ones to pursue now, versus those that can be deferred until later.
And third, I decided to write about this because I know that the enemy of thoughtfulness is anxiety. Anxiety wants a quick painkiller, looking for things that offer momentary hope, mostly through social media. If you were to ask me, I would say that our precious hope is misspent on these things. These things are designed to feed our addictions. They develop their power over us through the daily conditioning of our technology-infused lives. We’re wrecks because of it. I see it in my teenage daughter every day. I want to tell her to go out and play kickball, but kids don’t do that anymore. At least not where we live.
It’s the start of a new year. Think about your opportunities. It could be anything, not just business related like mine. In fact, it might be even more important to look at your relationships and sort out which ones are in need of greater focus, and which ones need to be placed on the back burner. Or even more courageous, to bring to an end. Make some choices. Learn to say no to false hope. Get clear. Get wisdom. Be of a good courage.
Peace and Happy New Year. God is anxious to be good to you.