Know What You Want

I was talking to my Mother and Father on the phone yesterday, and the topic of conversation came around to some of the things that I was talking about in my last post. In it, I talked about things about myself I had recently learned, and I mentioned that I wished I’d figured out some of that stuff earlier.

I often find when I learn something new, the initial feeling can be a double edged sword. I find this particularly true with software I use every day. Sometimes someone shows me a new way of doing something that saves a lot of time. I am happy to learn the new technique, but can’t help but to think of the wasted years of having done it the old way.

In conversation with my parents, we started talking about things we’ve learned that might have made a difference earlier in our lives. We also talked about risks we’d taken earlier that in hindsight turned out for the best, even if we were doubtful at the moment of the decision. My Father had said for the most part he wouldn’t have changed much. I was a little skeptical, but he attributed it to having taken some time to figure out what he wanted early on in his life. Perhaps he’s on to something.

“Know what you want,” he said. If you know what you want, you can make decisions accordingly. If you don’t know what you want, or if your priorities aren’t straight, you’ll find yourself adrift, taking the past of least resistance, and leading a life that may or may not be satisfying.

That resonated with me. When I think about times that have been hardest in my life it’s when I have been unsure of my motivations for doing what I am doing. One of the worst feelings I experience is when I feel a false victory. This is a hard one to identify because it usually coincides with the elation of having accomplished a goal, but it’s there in the background, asking the question, “is this what you really wanted?”

I have felt this when I’ve had success in my business, like when I have landed a job that will make me a bunch of money, but at the end of it I realize I have been ignoring friends and family, and I have a hard time getting interested in the next project. To a lesser extent, I feel it when I have played solitaire on my cel phone until I’ve won. I get to watch the little cards dance around, but I then realize that I’m dog-tired and have to get up in the morning in a less than satisfactory number of hours.

So, this morning, when I went to my little cafe to sit and have a coffee and make a list for the day, I also wrote out some of the big things in life I want. I figure if I make them public, they will be more real, so here they are. I’ll likely edit them as time goes on, and they are listed in no order other than that that I came up with them.

  1. I want my family and personal relationships to be the priority in my life.
  2. I want kids.
  3. I want to feel financially secure, and I want a financial plan that spans my life expectancy.
  4. I want to bang my own nails into my own walls, and I want to have a stake in the space I live in.
  5. I want to set aside a period of time every year, measured in weeks, to spend alone with my nuclear family.
  6. I want to maintain a real, genuine, respectful and adult relationship with each of my parents.
  7. I want to see my extended family at least once or twice a year, and I want to be in close enough contact with them that I’d never feel odd giving them a phone call.
  8. I want a job where I can feel supported financially and valued for my work.
  9. I want to work aside a group of individuals with whom I find comfort in familiarity.
  10. I want to feel enough challenge in my work to stay passionate, but I do not want so much that I am overwhelmed, or feel I have to sacrifice my family and personal relationships.
  11. I want to continue to know myself better, to grow and to change throughout my life.
  12. I want to remain open minded. I want to accept the views and lifestyles of the people around me without judgement. I want to value people based on their virtues, and not their politics.

Not the Introvert I Thought I Was


It’s been busy. that’s the reason there haven’t been many blog entries lately. What I mean by that is that blogging hasn’t been a priority. I was on about that a while ago – my position on the issue still stands. It’s not that I haven’t had time, it just hasn’t been a priority.

Which is sad, because I like blogging. I have become more aware lately that I have to make time for my priorities. I want this to be one of them, this blogging thing. It soothes me to think of you folks reading it. Lately I’ve been feeling the effects of prolonged solitude. Julie is at school during the day, and my home office gets pretty lonely. It is hard to maintain perspective in this situation. I have been finding it easy to feel overwhelmed, and to try to solve my problems by putting my nose further in to the grindstone. The thing is, the grindstone looks pretty big when your nose is right at it. Taking a step back gives me the perspective I need to appreciate the relative actual significance of the grindstone.

Lately, I have been noticing that the prioritization of time is not enough to achieve better perspective. For me, it is also in finding the company of others. The change of scenery that comes with the awareness of other people around me enhances my perspective over life. I have noted that this doesn’t even have to involve talking to or acknowledging other people. Sitting in a cafe full of strangers is enough.

I have learned that I work a lot better with other people around me, and I work at my best when I am not really engaged with them. I have recently come to an arrangement with a subcontractor. He is a student, and only available for one afternoon a week, but during those afternoons, I feel I best at what I am doing, even though I put his nose to a grindstone, and we don’t really talk much other than to acknowledge the goodness of a song in the background music that is playing, or to ask a very occasional work related question.

About a week ago, I started beginning my day with a cup of coffee at a little cafe up the street. Life improved almost immediately. Go figure.

In the spring of 2001 I took a 7 week course where I built a guitar from rough pieces of wood in a small wood shop in a small town in Saskatchewan called Tugaske. There were 7 people in the class including the instructor. Together, we represented roughly 10% of Tugaske’s population. There were 7 noses to 7 grindstones, and while we were all friendly, there wasn’t a whole lot of conversation. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I bought wood to build another guitar while I was there and I swore I’d find a way to put it together upon my return to the coast.

Well, first I figured I couldn’t build my guitar because I didn’t have the tools. Slowly, I started acquiring them. Then, it was easy to say I couldn’t do it because I didn’t have the space, but soon after we married in 2002, Julie found us a house where I had access to a garage to use as a workspace. After living there for 3 years, with the garage full of tools and my wood ready to go, I had only put about 2 or 3 days into my project. We’ve since moved again, and the project sits in a box, looking much like it did when I bought the wood in Tugaske.

I figured the moral of that lesson was that you can rent space, have tools, and all the rest, but if you don’t make something a priority with your time, it just won’t happen. I think that’s still true, but I now also realize that a big part of the reason I was able to focus and build that first guitar was because of the other people in the room in Tugaske. For me, I don’t just need to make time the priority, I need to make the social aspect of an activity a priority as well.

This has been a big revelation for me. I am hoping I can use it to get more of what I want out of life. I decided I wanted to do some painting to give myself perspective last week, but the blank canvas remains sitting on my shelf. I think I now know I need to find time to paint, and also some other people to be in a room with my while I do so. Perhaps I’ll find a woodworking class where I can make another guitar with the know-how I already have, or maybe I’ll find some people who are interested in renting shared studio space to paint, or any of the other things I have been wanting to make time for in my life.

The moral of this story? Know thyself. I can’t believe I am as old as I am to be figuring this stuff out. If I knew this earlier, maybe I’d be done my guitar by now.

Better late than never.

Anyone reading this who knows someone in Victoria who wants company whilst painting? Hook me up!

Photoshop Class

I’ll be teaching two Photoshop classes that are part of the Camosun College’s Web Design Certificate. There will be a total of 36 hours, and one piece of advice I received from a former instructor at Camosun as to divide things up into 20 to 60 minute bite sized chunks.

Going on that theory, I have been brainstorming to come up with as many as I can, thinking that for 36 hours of teaching, I’ll probably need around 72 topics. My list so far can be found here. I’ve heard rumours that ImageReady is not going to be continued in CS3, so I want to stay away from that, but otherwise, I am looking for any and all topic suggestions. I know a lot of folks who use Photoshop, and I am hoping there are some of you out there who can help me out.

I should mention that I am writing this post partly because the last plea for help worked out very well for me. Thanks to everyone who offered up suggestions for the Graphic Design course!