Ah, the yellow goals. My social and creative side. My weakest side. Let’s see how I did in 2016.
MY YELLOW GOALS: Focus your energy, be prolific
First out of the gate is my Writing goal. This looks a bit like my blue goal, but whereas the blue was more about non-fiction and blogging, this was about my true creative side. Fiction was non-existent. Posting stuff was almost non-existent, although I did put up a couple of things. And I killed the creativity challenge, and I don’t mean that in a celebratory way. Literally, I killed it, deleting the group from Facebook. There just wasn’t enough interest. I’m still doing memes, quotes, jokes, etc. which is something. Part red, part yellow, part green, I guess I’ll call it YELLOW overall.
I thought the Cooking one was going to be a complete and utter bust. Most of the year, I tried almost nothing new. I compiled some stuff, organized a few things, but wasn’t really making much progress. And then in October and November, we tried some baking and a couple of new recipes. A small burst of creative energy. Not enough to go green, but I’ll keep it as YELLOW for now.
The third category was a specific area of creativity I wanted to work on. Namely, creating PhotoBooks. These vary from year-in-reviews to potential thematic ones. And overall, I’m really quite happy with my progress. I completed three “year in review” ones (2014, 2015 and a partial for 2009 to complement an earlier partial) plus a souvenir book for a 90th birthday party. Overall, clearly GREEN.
As much work as the PhotoBooks were, I think I have to still knock myself down to YELLOW overall.
Yellow is the social and creative category, and I confess this one is a challenge for me right now. I really need to build my blue energy back up, and the only way to do that is through analytical work (for the most part). Yellow is the opposite energy, the draining energy, and it certainly is for social activities.
I’m going to throw myself a small pity party for a moment; although I am not actually seeking the pity, the wording is hard to nuance away from it. I am a strong introvert, that is and always will be true. And yet everyone needs friends. Or at least that is the popular psychology model, and I have little room to doubt it. However, I suspect that introverted analytical-types need it a lot less than extroverted intuitive-types. But here’s the thing, and I could put it here or put it in green for “emotions, etc.”.
I’ve kind of become isolated over the last year or so. It isn’t that I don’t have friends, but they’re not the “doing things together” type .One of the few things I do with “friends” as a group is arrange wing nights for the guys. I’m not super athletic, so I’m not going to ball tournaments, hockey outings, etc. And I hate parties generally – I don’t want to have nor see 1000 friends, just a handful. Honestly, for most of my friends, unless we create an occasion to see each other, we won’t. Our paths just don’t intersect that much outside of work. While I organized four or five wing nights last year, each one had a maximum of two other people show up, most only one, and one of them I cancelled as no one was interested. Some were spontaneous, others were planned weeks in advance, same result – nada for response. Or almost nada. It just doesn’t interest the other people, and I’m the only one organizing it. So I’m killing the wing nights.
Equally, I spent a lot of time on Facebook last year. Most of that was deliberate as part of my creative side, but some of it was compensating for the lack of in person contact, or at least I think some of it was that, probably. And same result. I feel more like I’m annoying people than connecting with them. I’ve known people in my life like that, used to be quite close with someone like that. Who tried but couldn’t seem to crack the social code to friendship. I think, in part, I was living under a small delusion of grandeur since my wife, Andrea, is a lot more social than I, and I think I was basking in the spillover glow. But it’s been clear for some time that I’m not resonating with people, pretty much on any level. And while that sounds like the pity party, it’s not.
The pity party is that it bothered me. It never used to. It goes with my personality. And at one time at least, I was perfectly happy going to movies by myself, restaurants by myself, etc. Maybe it’s the lack of alternatives, but I realized recently it had been bothering me, and I hated even more that it WAS bothering me. I used to be stronger than that. I need that spine back. Which isn’t to say I’m going to be a hermit or anything, or anti-social, but I am going to lower my expectations considerably. To relish what I get, to accept the value of what I do have, rather than wondering why not more. Or as the kids in Jacob’s old kindergarten class were told, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset”.
Yellow (Expression, social, creativity)
Which then takes me back to the model. Friendship is going on the back burner, I’ve spent far too much energy on doing the wrong things in the last year with little return, and no great insights. One step up from that is openness, and that is part of what this blog is about. Not sure what to do with the spontaneity side, not sure it’s relevant if the upstream activities are not already met.
On the creativity side, I’m hoping my writing will allow me to build some yellow energy to fight against the drains on my blue energy. I think I’m somewhere between basic and functional, not sure if I have enough of a base to reach “applied” in the same manner.
In terms of activities, I had thought of a large social awareness campaign last year. I wanted it focused on prostate cancer, but the intellectual model was a bust early on. I was thinking of trying again this year, maybe something around “preemie awareness”, and I might do something small, but here is another giant kicker which I think puts me closer to Tier One than Three. I spent a LOT of time last year on FB and Twitter, building my blog, etc. I created memes, almost 200 of them. I tweeted over 1500 reviews of TV episodes. I brought the blog word count up to 400K worth of words. And what response did I get? None. Maybe 40-50 likes on Twitter, a handful of followers, maybe 20 likes in total for the year on Facebook. A smattering of comments. I tried questions, I tried provocation, I tried cute, I tried serious. Nothing. Which isn’t surprising…we’re basically talking social marketing, and a blue analyst with limited social skills is not the best person to be doing that. I thought maybe I was smart enough to get over the natural limitations of my personality and social preferences, but apparently not even close. So I’ve closed the book on all that hoopla.
Which means the only three things I’m doing this year are:
writing, including posting some of my attempts at fiction;
cooking, including perfecting a few targeted recipes; and,
Again though, I need a slogan. Something that both keeps my expectations and activities in check, while leaving room for growth. Something like:
I have talked not at all so far about my red goals. And with strong reasoning. I’m embarrassed by them. Or rather, I’m embarrassed by some of them. Red is about a combination of physical and type-A driving forward, and generally speaking, it embodies the physical side of life plus my career. Let me start with career, because it is the easiest to talk about, and was part of the catalyst for the PolyWogg 4.0 commitment.
I started at Foreign Affairs back in ’93 — 22 years ago this month. I find it almost impossible to fathom. But that’s not the point. I spent 4 years doing various contracts and terms, and then started at CIDA as an indeterminate PM-1. Then PM-2 and PM-3 over the next couple of years. Then a switch to ES-04 in 2002, and ES-06 in 2005. In 2008, we reclassified the ES-06 positions into EC-07 but it’s the same level, just a different name. And I’ve had a chance to be a director on numerous occasions, with the most recent stint being just over a year ago. I’m good at what I do, I think strategically, I’ve got good experience, and I like managing. It seems like a no-brainer to move up. Except each time I approach an EX job, I balk a bit. I haven’t been sure it’s what I want. And this past fall, as I geared up for a competition that was the best chance I would likely ever have at making it into a pool, I realized I had almost no interest in doing the competition, no interest in getting the job, and no interest in learning to be a new EX over the next year. I had other goals, other life pieces that were calling to me, and it wasn’t about investing more time and energy in my career. There are some people who think my current level is the best in government, and some who think it’s one of the worst. You have managerial responsibilities, staff, some latitude and autonomy, but you are not part of the executive cadre, you don’t get performance pay, you don’t sit at the big table. Ultimately, putting all the navel gazing aside, it came down to a simple principle that I believe in beyond almost all others for careers. Life is too short not to be doing what you want to do, and becoming an EX was not what I wanted to do right now. I am not saying no to it forever, nor even yes to it eventually. Just answering the simple question, “No, I don’t want it right now.” So I withdrew from the competition. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a slam dunk, I was going to make it. But it was the type of competition that is relatively tailor-made for the type of work I do.
But I’m not going for it, and it leaves me a little at odds to figure out “What’s next” for my career. I like what I do, and I don’t particularly want to change jobs, but it has been awhile that I’ve been doing the same type of work, if not the same job, and eventually I will have to figure out what I want to move on to, rather than what I am moving away from in my current tasks. In the meantime, I like my files, I like my branch, I like my staff and I like my boss. I like my job. Maybe not for another 15 years worth of liking it, but for now, I’m happy where I am. Which leaves the only thing I want to do in the next year is update my French profile. It is woefully out of date, and I really need to commit to fixing it. Which I hope to do, starting in March. It will be somewhat self-directed for awhile, but I need that to rebuild my foundations. My goal is a minimum of 30 minutes a day of french study, at least three times a week.
On the physical side, it divides first into “health”. I have an ongoing health problem that they can’t find a cause for, and it is a bit worrisome when it crops up. Without sounding overly scary, I have some mild numbing in my face at times. Not like a stroke, or paralysis, more like a bit of my face has fallen asleep. Usually accompanied by a sinus headache and sore eyes. We’ve done the big tests — heart tests, fMRI, Cat-Scan, etc., blood work out the wazoo, and nothing. No apparent cause. I have high blood pressure, mostly related to weight, and while it’s totally under control with medication, it’s possible that it could be related to the meds, but unlikely since it’s rather sporadic and infrequent. One possibility at present is that it could be sleep-related, so I’m doing a sleep test this month to see if I have apnea or only grinding. I’m going to keep plugging away at finding a cause, and I’m do for a physical this year. I’ve already eliminated allergies and asthma causes too.
Beyond that health, the only other things on my “health” side this year is to find a new dentist, possibly a more local doctor, and to make more regular visits to see massage therapists and chiropractor for neck and back.
Which leaves me with the last part of ongoing, that I’m going to skip over for now to talk more about the bucket list items. I have three that I want to tick off this year, and while the first is simple, the other two are scary enough that the fact that I’m talking about them first rather than the last of the ongoing, you know I really don’t want to talk about the ongoing stuff.
First off the bucket list will be my ongoing commitment to give blood. That may sound relatively simple, but it has been exceedingly complicated to set up. No, I’m serious. I wanted to do it once at work, and they basically said no because my Ontario Health card wasn’t registered or something. Then someone called to book Andrea in at Canadian Blood Services, and I spoke to them too, and we set up a special time near the holidays two years ago. Andrea and I trundled over to the building, all ready to go. Except the one staff member who was there was very confused because none of the doctors or nurses were actually there that day, and she couldn’t figure out how we were scheduled. Only to find out the scheduler had booked us for the previous year. No go. Next time we went to schedule it, I asked about whether I could give blood considering I was on blood pressure meds i.e. would they take the blood with those meds in my system. I knew they *could* take blood, because I’ve had lots of blood work done, but I didn’t know if they *would* take it because of the meds. Apparently no one knew. I was transferred twice, they said they would follow up, no one did. They did tell me however that I probably couldn’t just go to any blood drive, because the people wouldn’t know whether the meds would affect things since the “experts” at CBS didn’t know themselves. In the end, I’ve got other things to do than chase the experts to get this figured out so I can donate, if I can. This year, I’m going to ignore whose rabbit it is to chase, and I’ll pursue it once again. It doesn’t help that I don’t like needles. I had needles as a kid for allergies, once a week for a couple of years, and I really don’t enjoy them, the process, the smell, nothing. I do it when I need to, I’m not exactly “afraid” of it, it’s just really uncomfortable and I have to look the other way or risk passing out. I also get flushed, hot and physically nauseated. Why do I want to do it? Because I can. Because anyone can. And we all should. It’s the right thing to do, even if it’s a pain in the patootie to set up for me apparently.
Speaking of small phobias, I am not a big fan of heights. Yet somehow this year I’m going to find a way to go on a zipline and rappel down a wall. Not City Hall like that whackjob friend Daniel (!!!!), but something small and preferably non-lethal. I’m a big guy, I have reason to worry about rope strength. But I’ll do it. There’s an eco-park near Lake Erie that seems like a potential candidate, and another in New York State that I like too. Generally speaking, they are parks that have other things I like, with trips/treks that happen to include a small zipline and a small rappel wall, without it being an opportunity to do 140 kms an hour over an open pit.
The last bucket list item is also a bit unnerving. I don’t know if I can do it with high blood pressure, have to check on that first, but I want to do a polar plunge. A way to cap off the year, perhaps, and to launch next year. Stay tuned!
Okay, so I’ve talked about my bucket list, and most of my ongoing stuff. Let me look at my notes…nope, nothing else to delay my addressing my embarrassing area. So here goes.
I’m a couch potato. A big fat, slowly deteriorating, muscle atrophying lump of mashed potatoes. I can wax and wane eloquently about the psychological issues that tie into the laziness, but even I am sick of looking at them. I know what they are, I know most of them are scripts, and that I regularly have squirrels running around my head about them. No offense to animal lovers, but I’m going to drown some of those squirrels this year. Commit to the quest! Death to squirrels!
So, what does that mean? A series of small goals that I’m not going to rationalize, I’m just going to commmit:
Push-ups – I’m committing to 5000 push-ups. Not a lot for a whole year, but it’s 5000 more than I did last year;
Lunges – I’ll be doing the low-impact versions as I’m worried about my knee joints for the long-term, and while it isn’t an impressive number, 2000 is more than I did last year;
Sit-ups / crunches – Another 2000;
Back yoga extensions – Another 5000 commitment; and,
Back upright row – Another 2000 commitment.
Those together constitute one very large “red commitment” I’m grouping as just “exercises”. I’m hoping the Seinfeld method will keep me on track, but I’m also fully expecting that this will be the hardest for me to complete. I’ve already broken my chain on this one this week.
I’m also committing to a second action commitment, one that I have no idea yet how to operationalize effectively. I need something relatively low-impact, like walking, and I want it quantifiable. I’m limiting myself to a small commitment, just 100km for the year, but again, it’s 100km more than I did last year.
As I said, I’m embarrassed that I have to commit to them to do them, and I’m equally embarrassed the commitment has to be so small. But I guess I have to start somewhere. Commit to the quest, and let the quest commit to me.
Which brings me to the end of my goals. I’ve talked about big commitments, bucket list items, and my ongoing stuff. That only leaves two things — figuring out an effective way to track and monitor progress, and to actually do the work.
The big screaming goal for the year, after I committed to the quest to become PolyWogg 4.0, was a yellow goal — to write 500,000 words before the end of the year. It’s big, it’s scary. I’ve also recommitted to my spiritual journey of 12 questions to ask myself this year. You would think that might be enough all by themselves, but no, this is the super year where I push myself to my limits, and beyond. Let’s put the yellow pieces together.
YELLOW PRIORITIES (Social, spiritual, creative)
My top two goals are my writing goal and my spiritual goal. But I’m also going to take three things off my bucket list this year too. The first one is “easy” in the sense that it’s already included in the writing goal — I’m going to finish my HR guide. By March 31st. My second bucket list goal of being creative is actually tied to my engagement with Jacob. I mentioned that we’ll do special projects each month, and one of the months will be to design a game. The game will combine some of the aspects of Life, Settlers of Catan, PayDay, Snakes and Ladders, and maybe BusyTown. All games that Jacob likes and plays. I feel like it will be a good way to solidify some of Jacob’s board game skills, laying the foundation for later games like full-mode Settlers etc. because he’ll already have the basic concepts to relate to when he learns the new game. He’s already doing a good job on card games and puzzle games. And, I’m also going to do a movie extravaganza weekend. Also known as a “BingeWatchWeekend”, my goal is to take a Monday off to recover because I’m going to watch movies from Friday night at 6:00 to Sunday night at 10:00. To be clear, I don’t mean no sleep, but basically that every waking hour I’ll be watching movies. I’m leaning towards a series or two (like LotR or Harry Potter) plus a couple of other action movies too. I suspect deep movies are best consumed as single entities and not in a binge, so I’m game. Just have to pick a weekend when Andrea will take the cub to Peterborough!
The day-to-day stuff is not without its challenges too. While it will tie into some of the above, my ongoing commitments are, by themselves, smaller in nature and spread across 7 headings:
Writing – I’ll finish my HR guide and I’m hoping to write an outline for a future book;
Blogging – I’m going to blog like crazy this year. I have a bunch of one-off topics / events / experiences that I’m keeping track of for future entries, but I also want to do some research and curation on the new topics I mentioned earlier (pop culture and news; law; business models of publishing; marketing of books; libraries and performance; and charities). My goal is at least fifty new blog entries this year in these areas. However, I also do reviews for books, movies, TV and music. For those, I’m going to do 24 book reviews, 500 reviews of TV episodes (tweets), 24 movie reviews, and 3 new reviews of Billboard year-end results.
Memes – I confess that I really like memes. I like designing them, I like seeing good ones, I like reading them. I have ideas for some related to music, quotes, questions, humour, work, careers, TV, movies, etc.). So much so that I’m committed to 200 new memes this year.
Reading – I am going to be plenty busy this year. I know that. But I also need to unplug from my side of the production equation and read what others have done. My goal is 25 books by the end of the year. Which books? Good question. I’m going to start with an easy one — Tolstoy’s Crime and Punishment. 🙂 Other books in the year will include: Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird; Gabriel Garcia Marques, 100 Years of Solitude; J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye; E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web; John Buchan, The 39 Steps + Greenmantle + Mr. Standfast + The Three Hostages + Island of Sheep; Bulfinch’s Mythology + Grimm Fairy Tales + Don’t Know Much About Mythology; the new Agatha Christie novel, The Monogram Murders; and Turn Left at Orion (an astronomy book). I’ve read some of them before, and I’ll still have room for 10 more. Those are likely to be a bit lighter fare — Star Trek, Dick Francis, Sue Grafton, Lawrence Sanders, Lawrence Block, John D. MacDonald. Mysteries for the most part. And hopefully a surprise or two.
Spiritualism – I’ve already blogged about my goal to ask myself 12 big questions and answer them from my own perspective. I’ve also started my gratitude journal, and I’m hoping to do 260 posts for the year. Onward and outward!
Photography – As mentioned already, I’m hoping to do a bit on photography this year, and listed it under my bucket list items for Blue. Because it is both about learning as well as about being creative. And so it’s really just reinforcing it here — a course of some sort, and some quick reference photography cards. I’m planning to start in March, but after that I want to do at least one thing photography related every week. Even if it is just process some old images and play with them a bit.
Recipes – I mentioned under “blue” for organization and “green” for family that I want to do better planning when it comes to recipes and cooking. Some of that is simply meal planning, but some of it is ensuring we continue to try new recipes and not just repeat the same old ones. In terms of new recipes, I have a few in mind, but they are not completely specific. I want to perfect a nacho recipe, and we’ve made good progress so far in terms of which cheeses to use, which toppings, etc. There are some limitations in that Jacob doesn’t like certain things but we do half Jacob / half adult nachos, and it seems to be working out. I also really like the Epicure steamer, and because I hate browning meat, I want to find five ground beef recipes that are quick and easy to do with the Epicure steamer. On top of that, I want to do some baking. My father learned baking from his father and grandfather, and while I didn’t do that, I would like to perfect five recipes — peanut butter cookies; chocolate chip and/or oatmeal cookies; a simple bread; dinner buns/rolls; and cinnamon buns. I didn’t experience it for as long as my siblings did, but my Dad used to bake buns sometimes on Saturday morning and you’d come downstairs to a household full of warm buns with butter that would melt in your mouth (the buns and the butter). Heaven. It may take me some time to get there, but I want it. After that, my plans get a little more basic. I want 12 new crockpot recipes, with at least 4 of them Asian. And I want to finalize/adapt the GroundNut Stew recipe I got about 8 years ago, make Tiramisu a la Izabella, perfect options for making quick and easy crepes, and after six years of sitting in a cupboard, use my dang ice cream maker. Let’s see, that makes 27 new recipes for the year. Time to get cooking hehehe
That’s it, that’s all for the yellow…On to the red!
The “Soul” category is one that is represented by the Gentle Yellow of belief. It is the deepest part of me, the “this-I-believe” me. It is also the expressive me, the part of me that allows my creativity to grow wings and expand outward, with no “rational” filter on it to say “is this worth it?” but rather just to give expression to a thought, a feeling, to scratch a creative itch because it is there.
In the past, some of my successes in this area have included NAC theatre and orchestra outings, studio tours for art viewing, cooking courses, new recipes, OpEd pieces, participating in critiquing groups, writing different types of prose, book reviews, my spiritual journey, and opening up on my blog. .
Last year, I had ten priorities. My first goal had been to complete my HR guide, and I did make decent progress on it in the summer during my holidays. I didn’t complete it, but decent progress. After that, the list drops rapidly in terms of progress…I didn’t publish anything on my proposed business model for self-publishing, only handled 1 of the big 10-12 questions related to spirituality, did manage to upload some of my past writing to the website, didn’t expand my book reviews or reboot my movie reviews. I didn’t really get going on the various books I wanted to read from either my bedside table or the Top 600 list nor did I do the dinosaur book for Jacob (plus, he’s mostly outgrown his interest in dinosaurs). And no new recipes really to add to the monthly mix. Sigh. Not quite a shutout, but far from “progress”. This is, notably, my hardest category — yellow is my least “go to” energy or activity, the one that both exhausts me and challenges me. But still, they are areas that I want to address/express as part of my personality, and personal growth.
Most of those will roll to this year. I want to get the HR Guide done. That one is priority one, as it has been kicking around too long. Recipe nights and reading from the top 600 list are hopefully easy additions. I’m hoping to knock off one spiritual question a month, we’ll see how that goes. The business model, book reviews and movie reviews are all about populating the blog and expanding it. I have an ongoing debate with myself about committing to goals for writing fiction until the HRG is done, so for now, it will just sit outside the annual priorities. I also want to start taking stock of daily blessings — I read a blog that talked about recording each day something you were grateful for, and I like the premise. At the end of the year, you open the box and review your list. Sounds like a good idea, so I’m thinking each day I’ll record my favorite thing of the day or something that I’m aware of that day more than others, etc.
With those goals in mind, here’s my working to do list for the Soul category:
HR Guide (#72)
BRs — 26 new
MRs — 12 new
Top 600 list (#68)
Tropical chicken curry
Fae girl story
God novels beats
#21. Read the bible
#22. Attend a spiritual retreat
#61. Design a game
#62. Play Pai Gow poker in a casino
#63. Have a movie extravaganza weekend
#64. See Best Picture Oscar winners to 1928
#69. Read complete works of Shakespeare, Dickens
#73. Publish a novel
#74. Write a screenplay
#75. Publish a novella
#76. Compile a cookbook of great recipes
HR for managers
#55. Learn to dance
#59. Learn to play a musical instrument
#60. Mardi gras or Times Square for New Year’s eve