What prioritization should really look like

I am a firm believer that everyone should have a (or some) personal project(s) that consume a small percentage of their time. I'm not talking about home projects like cleaning the garage or building that shelf in the utility room. I am talking about side gigs, a passion project - something you enjoy doing outside of your job that already makes a little extra money, or could real soon.

I had always done side work like computer repair and websites even while in college. In 2010 I formally formed an LLC, "Comrade Technology," and began working on small websites and doing in-home, on-call computer work and over the next couple years, I made a few thousand dollars. The money basically supported my passion for technology and thus self-funded itself. 


That all changed in 2012 where I realized the value of NOT trading hours for dollars and started working on projects that could make me money while I wasn't working. Long story short, it pretty much consumed me, ruined my mental state, and never made a dime. I became very unhappy, dissatisfied, and non-content with pretty much everything. I just didn't understand why I couldn't figure it out. I was literally doing the same things over and over.

Fast-forward to the fall of 2017 when I had coffee with a very successful local business owner and startup evangelist. I'm not so sure what I am to him, but he is somewhat of a mentor to me. Not exactly friends, but more than just acquaintances which allows me to appreciate his radical candor. This meet up ultimately resulted in me killing all 'side projects' and taking a chance to reboot. I stopped my podcast, dissolved my LLC, and stopped wasting time and money on things that I thought were worthwhile. Suffice it to say I'm much better off than I was, but I still recognize the value in doing something outside of 40 hours that makes grow personally and professionally in the long run.

So... this is what prioritization should have looked like before.

First and foremost I believe in three 'F's: 

  • Faith
  • Family
  • Fitness

In no particular order, but I will argue, for personal reasons I may get into at a later date, that fitness should come first. Just to note, I'm not overly religious, but faith gives me some direction when putting all things in perspective. Family is obvious, if not for them, what else would any of this matter for?

Then there are my guiding principles (most of which are not novel ideas of my own):

  • What would this look like if it were easy?
  • How do I succeed even in failure?
  • Can this be free? And for how long?

Finally my Goals:

  • Don't do anything thing that causes neglect of 3 'F's
  • Work on projects I'm satisfied always doing for free.
  • Do only things that port well into and out of my current 'role'.
    (i.e. benefit my current employer, and ethically use that unique experience to help others)
  • Provide recognizable value to someone

Tying it all together.

I'm blessed with a great job. I enjoy doing what I do and I'm compensated fairly well. You could say that I am 'lucky.' While I understand how fortunate I am, I also have the compelling desire to build something outside of that job. The problem is I've become so satisfied with my job that there is nothing really pushing me to build something that will replace it; even though that's what I really want.

Around the time I closed up all of my side projects, I was part of a team at Sioux Falls Startup Weekend that placed second with a project that I (most of us) really wanted to continue working on. I believe it has some great potential. I would use it. The only reason why I want to continue to work on it though is that 'maybe' it could turn into something that generated enough income to... replace my job. I also have been playing around with building something in the Voice Assistant space that has some potential as well. Both of these SaaS solutions seem like great options to focus my efforts on, but I can't get totally on board.

What does this mean?

Both of those projects, as well as my past projects, fit into a few of my beliefs, principles, and goals, but not all. Here's why:

  • If I failed, I would have become better at the coding/development behind building the solutions, but wouldn't be left with much I could take anywhere else. I'd have code to reuse, but that would require working on yet another project that might go nowhere again.
  • With a dedicated resource of time, I could pretty much build the first version of anything myself. The problem with that type of time is it requires money or a significant neglect of my beliefts
  • Ultimately be responsible to others in ways that may further impact any of my beliefs.
  • I wanted money in exchange at the end of all of them and not just the satisfaction of doing them

Unless I can change my attitude about any of these things, or the impact they may have, I simply am choosing to no longer dedicate my time to them. Even though I really want to work on these projects, I have to cut them loose. At least for now. In the meantime, I am going to choose to work on only the things that fit into all of my beliefs, principles, and goals that I have mapped out here. Maybe later I'll have acquired the resources I need to dedicate time to them without these impacts.

Moving forward

I want to continue to build and do things that help other people, but those projects have to be derived from my passions:

  • technology and teaching people how to use it more effectively
  • utilizing apps and services to be more productive and build a better life or career.
  • use my unique experience to consult or train individuals 

All of these are things that I would work on even if I wasn't getting paid. It would be great if a side-effect was to eventually generate some revenue, but my main drive isn't going to be to replace my job. It is important for me to remember that. I also understand there will always be some level of accountability but these things must not distract me from the three 'F's.

Wrapping up

I hope this helps someone reprioritize their life and goals before it gets too deep into 2018. This doesn't need to be a resolution, but more of a realignment. I am always looking to network with people and provide guidance or insight when asked for. What I wrote here may not directly relate to you, but I'm sure it relates to someone you know.

I'd love to hear about yours beliefs, goals, and priorities, how they impact the decisions you make in your life, and some of the projects you have given up on, are working on, or are waiting for the right time to start.

Comment here or reach out to me.
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