“My mind rebels at stagnation. No, I am not tired; I have a curious constitution. I never remember feeling tired by work, though idleness exhausts me completely.” –Sherlock Holmes
There’s definitely some inherit haughtiness in associating with a figure like that, but I’m wildly fascinated with the way he is portrayed between solving cases. I don’t pretend to compare my mind to his, but like Sherlock Holmes, I love to solve problems. It will work for now.
tl;dr – What pieces of what you’d like to do can you be doing today? If there aren’t any, you might need to re-configure your expectations of the future. Can you cut out something silly to get 10x more of something important?
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been really frustrated with the lack of obvious areas to apply my skills in web-related tasks.
Like Sherlock Holmes, there are days when I sit around and try not to go crazy. I think of all the possible cases where I might apply what I know, wondering when they will walk through my door. There have been days where I lay on the floor, wondering why I don’t have an inbox full of requests to make great stuff for people. I have all of this know-how, right? Why don’t people see that and come calling?
Unlike Sherlock Holmes, I love to solve problems because I genuinely love to help people. It makes my day to do something simple for people; you can imagine what it’s like for me to build a website or multimedia presentation that helps people get stuff done.
I hope the incredible haughtiness of all this has sunk in by now.
Building Baker Street
One of the first dichotomies I found when comparing out-of-work-detective-dilemmas was the issue of Baker Street. Sherlock had a front door, a place of residence, somewhere people knew to find him if needed. I sat down to draft this article and realized that my own friends really don’t know what I do or where to find it! This seems to be issue #1 with my comparison; before you can become recognized, you need to have a front door for people to walk through. You need to build Baker Street.
This also means that you can’t wait around for cases, because you have to do the work of building that door first. If you sit around in an empty lot, wondering why people don’t ask you to find their heavily-radiated bunny rabbit, you’ve got problems. On the internet, building a place of residence looks a lot like publishing content on a website. If you want people to know you, show them what you do.
I tend to build things on paper when I’m not actively working on something for a client. That may mean drafting out a business plan, or just doodling more revisions for my website. (Ugh.) Either way, the time you spend in waiting makes you prepared (or not so prepared) for the times of trial. What you do all the time defines who you are; there’s no magic button where you get from novice to master detective. Just do the work.
Right now, I’m sitting at my desk, typing away on the keyboard that I use for every single thing I make. Regardless of the problem I need to solve, the words I want to expel, or the people I need to talk with, most of it happens right here; why do I have such a hard time working toward “big” goals when I’m here all day long?
I don’t want to diminish the importance of daily routines and responsibilities. Sometimes a “big” goal needs to be re-framed in language that fits the true needs of a situation.
I recently spoke with a close friend who has been having some difficulties in early stages of pregnancy. Being an active person, it was tough for her to be spending most of her days in bed.
She was depressed:
“I wish I could get up and do things!”
“Well, someone has to keep that baby safe!”
We need to look at the most important thing we can do, even if it is very small, and make that our “big” goal.
I don’t have the responsibilities of keeping any children safe, but I do have a mandate to provide for a household…even if that just means me right now. That needs to count as a “big” goal.
I always want to do great work; my parents taught me to do my best every time, no matter who was watching or measuring the results. That charge has stuck with me over the years, driving me to hope for better opportunities in my work environments as I put forth more effort. There are times when I don’t do anything because I’m hoping for the best possible situation – such as the times when I lie on the floor – but I don’t want to see that pattern continue.
My goal for the next month is to enter “fail fast mode” with everything I create. I make stuff all the time, so why not put some of it online and see what sticks? I have unpublished podcasts, journals, narrations, businesses, photography…and that’s just the stuff I can see from sitting at my desk.
I make things all the time. Publishing lots of stuff sounds like a great plan right now.
Sadly, we say goodbye to Sherlock at this point; I’m finding that we really only have a few things in common. Our brains won’t stop working on problems, we spend lots of time alone, we abhor intellectual stultification. I have to solve problems as a way of life, but when I go from making stuff go to sorting stacks of notes, something needs to give. There are lots of things I’d like to solve, but perhaps the every day issue of “what great thing can I make today?” should be the first? I don’t have a well-known doorway for people to pass through (yet) and I’m pretty sure that won’t happen until I ship a ton of things, like them or not.
Finding your way versus moving when you find momentum are two very different things. When you make mistakes (note: “when”) you can learn from those and iterate in new directions; it’s hard to iterate when standing still.
Let’s jump forward 6 months – what would I like to see this site become?
- — My “Baker Street” doorway; home for a constant drip of articles, both short comments on culture and longer deep-thought pieces like this one.
- — A showcase for stuff I’ve built, people I’ve worked with, or projects I/we have completed. (Podcasts, websites, photography, etc.)
- — The professional launchpad for what I currently call “hobbies” and side projects. I want to add value, not noise, which will take time to build properly.
How do I get there? That’s a question I have no idea how to answer. But hey, I love to solve problems. Just like Sherlock Holmes.
If you’re curious, here are a few of my “skills” that I mentioned earlier. Always room for improvement, but I have had some great opportunities that leave no excuse for not working hard and making great stuff every day.
20+ years of writing (seriously, my mom saved the school papers)
20+ years of photography (I was so cute)
10+ years of media production experience (college degree – primarily film editing/effects)
10+ years of web development (my first WYSIWYG site was in MS Word – ha!)
8+ years of WordPress experience (my pride and joy when “solving problems” online)