Friday, January 05, 2018

2018 Goals: Focus

Last year I read a fantastic book called "The ONE Thing" by Gary Keller. The principle is that we, as humans, are bad multi-taskers. So, to create truly impactful results, we need to focus. Focus on one thing. It's not that there's anything wrong with being a jack-of-all-trades, but you shouldn't try to do everything all at once. Otherwise you'll spend too much mental energy switching tasks and never get into deeper thought and find creative solutions. This rings true for me. Some of my best solutions came after debating a problem for hours. I don't do that enough today.

So what should you be focusing on? What is worth spending copious amounts of time on? To figure that out, Keller offers a question:

What's the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it
everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

It's pretty powerful and works on so many levels. Here's how that works: What's the ONE Thing _______ I can do such that...

  • ONE Thing this year
  • ONE Thing this month
  • ONE Thing today
  • ONE Thing right now
  • ONE Thing with my family
  • ONE Thing with my job
  • ONE Thing with my finances

So, you can have multiple focus areas (family & job being the two most common), but you're only doing one of them at a time. Once you answer the question, remove distractions and work on it.

After I read the book, I set up a Friday afternoon meeting with myself to ask this question and plan out the following week. I created placeholders each week to work on my one thing (so I don't schedule over it), and during my personal Friday meeting I replace the placeholders with the actual one thing I'm working on. Finally, at bedtime I review my schedule for the next day so I'm ready to go when I wake up.

I'll be honest... I do that 6 out of 8 weeks... It's not a ritual yet...

That's a HUGE preamble to announcing my 2018 goals.

This year, I have two goals. Two goals, that if accomplished will make everything else easier or unnecessary. One is fun, the other is incredibly difficult.

#2 Learn Bass Guitar

This might come as a surprise to some, but I was once a music nerd. I played saxophone (of all sizes) through college. I played in big bands, a small improv group, and in quartets. I spent a year learning cello, and guitar for fun, played in a church bell choir, and volunteered with a middle school band. I also composed/directed a waltz in middle school, then wrote/performed a song in college.

Like sports, there's learned skills, accomplishment, technical challenges, and moments of unrehearsed brilliance. I genuinely love it.

Today, the closest I get to music is pushing the arrow button on a keyboard to advance to the next slide while singing during Sunday morning worship. The feelings are surprising similar (skills, accomplishment, technical challenges), but I long to get more directly involved in creating music again. I also think it'll be an opportunity to better explore a different form of worship.

So I'm going to learn bass guitar this year. Why bass guitar?

  1. I can practice at any time of the day and not wake up a sleeping family or scare the dog.
  2. Bass guitars are welcome in church worship, so I'll have a reason to play.
  3. There's something inherently cool about bass guitar (My brain's limbic system can't articulate it).
  4. Plus, it's the possible start of a family band where Jessi plays piano and the kids play something like the drums and guitar. :)

Defining success is simple: playing with the worship team once this year. That'll mean I learned bass well enough. I feel like learning 10 songs (and the scales/notes/rhythms that go with them) will be enough of a baseline to ask to play on Sunday morning.

I applied some Christmas gift cards to a new bass and it'll be here in a week. I'm going to spend January finding a time to practice, researching lessons, getting advice from other players,  and identifying 10 songs I want to learn. Then I'll learn the songs with an aim of playing on a worship team near the end of the year.

#1 Launch Majordomo Nationwide

Settle in for a genesis story.

I invest in real estate. Through that experience, I learned a couple things and decided to share my knowledge. I started up a website and started writing for it. The idea was simple: write helpful posts to bring people to the site. Create downloadable content in return for people's email. Ask landlords from the email list what their biggest problems are. Create digital products (software, online classes, etc) that fix that problem. Sell the product. I could make a business that helped people while earning some income.

Well, I got to the research stage of this plan and got the shock of my life. I was expecting people to say bookkeeping (which is the first position small businesses hire), or talk about dealing with irresponsible tenants.

Nope. It turns out that landlords invest in real estate for something called "passive income" and there's one thing that's the exact opposite of passive: property maintenance. The #1 reason landlords hire property managers isn't because of tenants or bookkeeping, it's because they don't want to deal with the maintenance.

And guess what, it's not just landlords. Nobody buys a home so they can do home maintenance. They buy because of location, size, location, cost, and location. They get excited about initial projects and future improvements, but people don't like the regular maintenance. Many people simply don't have time because of other priorities like family, jobs, and hobbies (which makes sense). And even if they had the time, they're unsure of what to do and when to do it. This results in items decaying over time, which leads to increased stress, loss of pride of their home, and real value lost in their property.

This is a problem worth solving.

For the past year, I've been working with a friend to solve this problem. We prototyped different solutions... scrapped them... did more brainstorming and testing... and we think we cracked it. We've moved into development and plan to release a beta version of the software this spring. Assuming the beta goes well, we want to open it up nationally by the end of the year. The data we're using to make this work isn't free, which means we'll need to secure funding to go nationwide (the plan is for it to be free for users).

So there's a lot wrapped up in this one goal: manage the development team to launch the beta and initial product on time. Get a meaningful amount of beta testers through content marketing and visiting home shows. Secure funding to launch the product. So much to do! We have tools, tactics and processes laid out to get there, and it'll take focusing on this single goal to get it all done. This is where the Friday meeting will be critical.

Saying No

So normally I have 7-8 goals each year. And this year it's only two. That implies saying no to lots of things. For example, I'm saying no to purchasing another investment property this year (the current market helps make that an easy decision). In fact, I'm moving a lot of the regular monthly tasks I complete off my plate. I'm also not playing any sports, signing up for evening activities, or tackling any large house projects.

Having said that, we still have fun things planned: Jessi and I are going to run a marathon along the Great Wall in Beijing, we're going to plant a garden in our front yard, I have some great books I'd like to read, and our kids keep growing and learning.

But my primary focus this year is launching Majordomo nationwide.