Picking a Project

Before I talk about picking a project I want to say one thing:

This process takes time.

It takes time to build a Project-Driven Life. And it might take even longer if you spend every waking hour working on somebody else’s project.

Most people work on somebody else’s project. Any company who pays you, pays you to move its project forward.  If you’re happy at your job it’s because your skill set and values align with your company’s project.

If this is you, you’re lucky. High-five.

But most people aren’t big fans of the projects they work on at work. Or, they’re fans of a teensy little part of it, but they think the rest is bullshit.

And by “bullshit” I mean out of alignment with what they truly believe and/or stand for.

If this is you, you really need a personally-designed project on the side.

Why?

So you can live in integrity. So you can have at least a small shot at maximizing your full human potential before you croak.

So now it’s time to design yourself a cool project.

Here are the Rules:

1. Duration.Your project has to have a start and an end date.

2. The Goal.You have to state, up-front, what counts as “finished.”

3. Excitement. You must feel excited about the goal of your project.

A Project differs from a Streak in that you never know when a streak will end, but you always know when a project is done.

A streak is a game. A project has a mission.

A streak is how long you can persist. A project is persistence toward a goal.

When you know what kind of stuff you love and where to find it, and when you’ve tested your persistence by building long streaks of doing something every day without a miss, and when you know what you value and stand for:

It’s GO time.

Possible Projects

Here’s a list of possible projects to give you some ideas.

Learn a new language

Transition to a totally different diet: Go Vegan, or Vegetarian, or Raw, or Paleo

Train for something: a marathon, half- marathon

Write a book

Learn a musical instrument

Learn a martial art

Train your dog for an obedience or agility competition

Learn chess

Learn a new sport. Ultimate Frisbee?  Rock climbing? Kayaking?

Learn how to code

Start a blog

Build a website

Design a game

Plant a garden

Learn yoga

Learn photography

Learn to rumba

Scuba dive

Start a business

Hit the road for a year in an RV

Body build

Send 1 thank -you note a day for a year.

Read 50 books this year.

Some projects have longer timelines that others. For your first project, I’d pick something you could finish in a few months.

Let’s take an example.

Consider a project like: “Learn to Play an Instrument.” Let’s set up a scenario according to the rules.

Start with Rule #3: Excitement about the project.

You are really stoked to learn the ukulele. You went out and bought one, but it’s been sitting in the corner, untouched, since you bought it. Now you’re going to commit time to learn it. It’s going to be your NEW PROJECT. So great .

Now Rule # 2: The Goal: What will you count as done?

When you can play the song, “Over the Rainbow.”

Rule #1: Duration. You’ve watched an instructional YouTube, and looked at the chord sheet, and you really think you can nail this song if you practice consistently for 2 months.

So, 2 months from today (you circle a date on your calendar here) you will play Over the Rainbow totally decently.

Now your project is launched. This is your first project in your new project-driven life.

Congrats.

Tomorrow: Overcoming Obstacles

Is This You?

  • Are you still saying, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up” and you’re already grown up?
  • Are you in a job that you don’t like, but feel stuck in because you really don’t know what you’d rather do?
  • Do you know what you’d rather do but it’s financially unfeasible?
  • Do you feel squirmy when somebody at a party asks, “What do you do?”
  • Are you in a life transition? Are you going from high school to college, college to a job, career to retirement and don’t know what to do?

If this is you, I know you, because I’ve been through all these scenarios. I’ve spent half my life trying to figure out the color of my parachute.

I read a million books, took countless quizzes in magazines, talked to guidance and career counselors, took interest inventories, even prayed to god to send me a sign telling me why I was put on this earth.

It was kind of interesting, but none of it worked.

What did work was when I started paying attention to my one wild and precious life, and not how I could fit this wild life into the existing world of work, and careers, and jobs.

My version of “paying attention” involved making lists. Lists of all the things I liked and all the things I hated. The work of building and tending those lists brought my life into incredible focus.

Then I learned to meditate and take better care of my body. These two steps took the longest, but gradually I noticed that I had more energy and stamina, and I could stay calm when everybody around me was freaking out. This, I’ve discovered, is a very rare and in-demand skill set.

Then I wrote down what I stood for, what I believed, and the qualities I wanted to spend my life trying to cultivate. This personal manifesto became my North Star. Now everything I put my time into has to align with that, or else I don’t do it. This makes decision-making super easy.

Essentially what you are about to read in this book is a series of exercises that will take you through the process of list building and manifesto writing and project development, and all the rest. The exercises are fun and easy. They take time, and commitment to the process, but in the end you’ll end up with self-knowledge.

With self-knowledge you won’t ever have to ever ask yourself again what you want to be when you grow up. Self-knowledge will render that question completely absurd and meaningless and stupid. Once you realize you’re constantly evolving and growing and changing and that there is no such thing as a “grown up” anyway, you’ll be free from that little box, that suffocating prison.

I also want to help you negotiate the icky “What do you do?” question at parties. I’ve avoided many parties in my life for fear of that one question alone. Once you understand why people ask it in the first place, it’s a fun question to play with. I’ll teach you how to come up with funny and creative ways to respond that will move the conversation forward into rich and delightful territory.

But most of all I want to help you discover exactly what activities jazz and excite you.  Then I want to help you develop strategies to work those activities into what is probably your already over-committed life.

I want you to find one absorbing, challenging and worthwhile project and see it through to the end.

Then, after that project is finished, I want you to find another one. (Projects breed projects, so not to worry.) And another one. Until eventually your whole life—everything you do, and who you are, is defined by your current absorbing, challenging project.

Eventually, your life will become just one cool project after another.

You’ll love this project. It’ll be your baby. It’ll become your life at the moment. It’ll align with your values. It’ll make you excited to think about when you wake up. It’ll become who you are.

That’s the project-driven life.