Maybe this is what Yoda meant

My cliff notes for “Stop trying to try and try“:

When we’re in learning mode, our lack of knowledge and skills is in focus, and we may sometimes be painfully aware of how little we know. People imagine mastery is like learning mode, but where you know lots of things. It’s not — it’s more like when you’re in teaching mode, helping others, and their skills are in focus, not yours. Your knowledge in teaching mode, or as a master, is “just unconscious assumptions in the background”.

When you’re a master/in teaching mode, you’re expected to be capable; when you’re in learning mode, your responsibility is to try to be capable.

My advice is simple: notice when you’re expected to try, and consider reframing. It’s much harder to solve a problem when you’re Expected To Do Your Best than it is to solve a problem when you’re immersed in various subtasks, with the assumption that you’re going to solve the problem buried implicitly and unconsciously in the context.

Activities are more difficult when you’re focused on it as work, or as trying. Exercise is a good example: It’s far easier if it’s recreation. Being friends is another: Consider what the phrase “trying to be friends” evokes in you in contrast with “just being with friends”. When you’re trying, the inevitability of failure at some point is implicit, and gnawing at some part of you, wearing you down to the point where you excuse yourself for giving up. [Or, your efforts to try may get in the way of you recognizing you’ve succeeded.]

Switching contexts such that your actual goal is in the background rather than the foreground — such that pursuing it is not a conscious choice that you need to reaffirm every time you find a stopping point — is a powerful tool.

Actually trying to perform some an activity, versus trying to try, is very different. In the latter, you have to doubt your abilities, and stop and ask yourself how to go about it… In the former, you simply do. There’s less mental overhead. It’s like situating yourself in a stream — and now you’re swimming.

“Actually trying” (the former) is not the same as applying extra effort on top of trying to try (the latter). Rather, it’s simply tackling one small task at a time, after another. Identifying the next step, and tackling it. Whether solving problems large or small, it’s the same. Shift from your “expected try” gear to your “I’m competent” gear, and get to work.

So find a way to see the work as one task at a time, instead of a large problem, and find a way to enjoy it.

[I]magine someone who’s “playing soccer” [as opposed to sprinting up and down the field for exercise] with respect to your task or problem, and ask yourself what they might be doing. The key is to make the pursuit of your goal implicit, and spend your focus on the subproblems.

This post is part of the thread: Replacing Guilt Cliffs Notes – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

Managing a business with custom WordPress

We’re building systems on top of WordPress to manage every part of our business at Rocket Lift.

The WordPress platform essentially manages content and authentication for us, gives us frameworks to build custom UI and our own functionality, and offers extra features in the form of plugins developed by a large community. It gives us everything we need to rapidly build our own custom tools that fit our own process, style, and needs.

We’re tackling the low-hanging fruit first: We’re customizing P2 to make our internal discussions less reliant on third party limitations, and we’re building a Parking Lot for action-oriented discussions we’ve identified to iterate on the way we work (We treat our Parking Lot as a sacred commitment that we need to have a conversation soon, even if we don’t have time for it right now. WordPress will help us keep these top-of-mind with simple widgets and other other UI elements to display posts of our custom post type).

We’re also dogfooding tools to tame the content management gremlins that plague our client projects. I believe I speak for all of us when I say we are so excited about these tools, and can’t wait to share then when they are ready. Soon!

And then there’s our roadmap. Which is, you know, only kind of insanely ambitious.

  • A project management calendar, building on the awesome The Events Calendar to add some features we have never seen, desperately want, and believe that you, dear reader, will find killer.
  • Internalize our task management… Basically, we want a place to store “everything I don’t need to focus on right now”, something like Asana but with a saner awareness of task relationships.
  • Dashboards to pull in data from third party services for display in custom at-a-glance views. Individuals will be empowered to build their own dashboards with custom UI building blocks we create, combined with pipes to data from awesome API-backed sources like Pipedrive, Harvest, Github, and &! plus our own WordPress-based data.
  • If Intuit continues to refuse us easy access to our data, then maybe some day in the far future we’ll ditch QuickBooks. And won’t that be satisfying.

This is a lot to tackle, even without that last whale of a wish list item. This approach violates common wisdom in lean startups that says “Don’t build what you don’t have to”. I’m the one driving this; I’m probably crazy.

Yes okay, but we’re taking this one small piece at a time. This roadmap may span years. More importantly, we do custom work with WordPress every day, and have seen its potential as an application framework grow dramatically even in the past year, thanks to the addition of fundamental tools like wp-cli and the positive trend of plugins being architected (in some cases re-architected) for extensibility and interactivity by embracing core APIs and the hooks and filters pattern. WordPress has ripened.

We’re scratching our own itch here, and we’re doing what we can with what we have, where we are. Fresh off the the high of last weekend’s WordCamp Portland, we’re emboldened to push forward with these ideas.

Right now this is just words. Stay tuned to see what we can deliver.