WDS 2015: John Accuff

Unlike other conferences I didn't feel like live tweeting and I don't feel like writing mega posts about everyone so I'll do shorter more in-depth posts about people, events and situations that caught my attention.

I'll take a detour to something interesting that happened during the welcome shindig last night (7/10) started talking to a stranger... yes, me, talking to a stranger. And, somehow the topic of backgrounds and what we wanted to do when we were younger came up and I spoke about theater and about failed aspirations and certainties that proved to be wrong.

Background: Until Fall semester of my Junior Year in College I was a theater major with all intent of working in sound design and directing. I'll skip the reasons why but shortly before the end of the semester I switched majors to General Studies and did my Master's in Instructional Technology.

I try not to 'should myself to death' but there are times when I wonder if I hadn't switched and graduated as a theater major what would have happened and how different life would have worked out to be.

It wasn't different and my life took the turns that it has. I mention it because the longing for that particular path had not hit me this hard in years, if ever.

John Acuff (@jonacuff)

John was the first speaker of WDS and it really felt that someone had picked up the exact words that I needed to hear and that the rest of my time in Portland was processing and diggesting this first speaker and figuring out what to do with what I had just learned.

Would the 8th grader me clap or cry if he saw me today?

One of the reasons why the theater quote from last night resonated so strongly with me, I think, has to do with that question. The 8th grader me was 100% certain that he was going to work in theater. He was going to sweat a BA in theater and then work his ass off in an MFA in theater directing and then work in experimental theater and, maybe improv.

I wonder what would the younger me (c. 1988) say if he saw me now. Would he understand why I didn't graduate with a theater degree? Would he understand the choices I made and why I made them? Would we come to a neutral understanding and move on?

My inner 8th grader would certainly accuse me of selling out. Of letting comfort and security (such as it has been) dictate my life. I could tell him how much I agonized about the decision of switching majors before, during and after the process. But, as I remember myself back then, I wasn't going to let the older me off the hook that easy.

Bravery is a choice not a feeling. We never feel brave enough to do what we want

Short and sweet: What would it take for you to do what you want today, right now?

I'll come back to this because it's a deceptively simple question and the answer, I think, will take peeling several layers before the real truth comes out.

Why do we loose our voice

We all have a voice but most of the time it's buried by who we become and what we think we should be doing and what we think others people think we should be doing.

This is particularly true for me as I look at my friends growing up and where we are by comparison. I'm the only one to remain single and without kids. Out of a group of 7 of us, all but 2 of us have at least 1 kid, I'm the only one single and there are only two of us who have no kids. The cultural expectation was that we'd go to college (any college, the choice was not whether we were going to college but what school and what major), get married and get in a relationship, kids, family and the picket fence.

When I moved to the US I decided that it was not for me. I've explored and I've switched things up enough to make it a very interesting ride. Some times I wonder if the sacrifices I made to get here are worth it but whatever the answer I'm here and they've shaped me into who I am.

We're to busy to have a voice.

If you stay in motion you don't have to face the things that make you emotional

Someone really has to slap you in the face with the dead fish before you realize the truth that has been staring you in the face all this time. Why do we keep ourselves so busy and let the "work-life balance" go to hell for long periods of time and then moan and complaint about how burned out we are.

Time won't find you, you have to find it

And, as with many other things, it's on my hands to control how I use time. Time waits for no one and it is up to you what you do what but how do you hold ourself accountable to both your job and your passions?

Tools like Dosummer2015 may be a good starting point but you need to find other ways to add more accountability to the process of your life. Whether it's a mentor, whether it's a mastermind

**What would it take for you to do what you want today, right now? **

Set aside an hour a day to do things that are not related with your work. Enforce it religiously... no matter what it is you will set aside an hour, either early morning or when you get home but you will do it.

We get distracted by shinny things

Shiny things that gets us distracted from pursuing your dreams.

I did this in 2013. I had a budget, I had ideas of what I wanted to do and I went ahead and did it. I have (and hate) to admit that what brought me back to working in corporate America was money and financial stability. Sometimes I think I didn't plan for a longer self-employment term... and now I'm wondering if I want to go at it again and whether that would be a good reason to tough it out this project at NTT while I continue to expand my portfolio.

Kids think you need some money. Adults think you need enough money

It's amazing to see how much money begins to change you as you grow up and how much more important money becomes as you get older. Granted we need additional money as we grow up but how much do we really need?

Some versus enough. Some times enough money will kill your voice

How do you define enough money? Is enough the same when you're single than when you have a family?

"Can I pay you not to work on things you don't care about" - yet many "successful" creators end up doing little of the work they set out to do when they started

Sometimes when you get enough money, you abandon your voice (e.g. bloggers chasing traffic)

How many times have you stepped away from what you wanted to do. Even now you're letting money become the driving factor (along with loyalty which is what you're expressing externally is your concern... it may be so but you know it's not the only one.)

And how much does that changes you? I had a chance to answer that question in my mid 20s. I was hired at CVC, in the middle of Silicon Valley in 2000... salaries were inflated to hell and back and they had to pay about 3 or 4 levels above the actual job to be competitive with the dot com bubble at the time.

By the time I left, I was grossing over 100k and taking home about 85 to 90k a year. I don't remember ever been so miserable (well, maybe my time in Georgia, but that's another story) so I promised to myself that never again would money be the driver behind me applying for jobs. The quote below really resonated

You can't monetize joy

If you're not happy doing what you do then why bother doing it? CVC proved that to me. I loved some aspects of it but the bad far outweighed the good. I should have quit a long time before they laid us off. One of the things I learned from our director is that you never take advantage of people.

When you see people as platform, you eventually stand on top of them

We want everyone to like us

Symptoms of this

  • You hate telling people no
  • You keep trying to win over people who will never like your voice
  • If you can find one person to confirm your negatives, you'll find validation not to do it

I got all symptoms. I hate telling people no and I've kept trying to find people who will validate what I'm doing or why I shouldn't be doing it at all. I tend to forget that the only person whose opinion really matter is you. Act accordingly.

If you tell someone no and they react in anger they just confirmed you made the right decision

Trying to make everyone like you is the quickest way to hate yourself

I remember someone telling me that whenever we hated something on others it was a reflection of something within ourselves that we didn't like. So, whenever you're looking at something you don't like on others, what is it that you should change in yourself?

  • You're terrified of the advice "just be yourself"

Being yourself assumes that you know who you are or at least have an approximation of the idea of who you are as a per son and where your values are and how far will you go to see those values through in what you do

Who are you?

I've said it before, who are you is a deceptively simple question.

It implies accepting yourself as you are and making a conscious effort and commitment to change those behaviors that you're not; this is the hardest part of the problem.

Being unconditionally honest to yourself is the hardest part of growing up... or growing up emotionally at least. Being unconditionally honest with others can be more problematic but, in the long run, it's equally necessary.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't like yourself šŸ™‚

One of the things that has bugged me a lot over the years is perfectionism, not that it has changed many things, but it has made me thing about when is too much perfection ruining the work you're trying to accomplish.

When is not releasing a project because it's no 'good enough' or because you need to get it 'just right' harming the project? harming yourself?

Be known, not perfect

I've always been a perfectionist and, I realize now, that has stopped many projects from being released and realized.

I started an experiment in June where I took a long-form essay in typography broke it down into its components and made one post with each section and just scheduled them for publication... they will publish whether they are ready or not and, most important, whether I'm ready or not.

On one hand that is abso-fucking-lutely terrifying. You mean I don't get to edit the posts 20 times before they are published? People will judge me by those posts, they have to be the absolute best they can be.

But, you know what? It's so refreshing not having to worry about that... I ran them through spell checker and I made sure the content was as good as I could make it. If people like it then it's awesome and if they don't then I'm OK too... you can always edit it based on feedback

We used to document moments and we create moments to document

What makes the moments you record worth recording? What about all your WDS tweets and your blog posts?

It seems like an unrelated question but if it comes to being honest with yourself you have to realize and accept that there are times when you blog when you do it because you have to live to other people's expectations and because you feel like 'you have to produce a certain output.' John gives a great example from his personal life in How to look good on the Internet.

How many times has this happened to you?

Your voice is never lost, it's always waiting to be found

Questions to ask

If you plan your finances more carefully and plan for work that meets with your mission there is no reason why you can't support yourself doing more of the work you love. What's stopping you

Is writing about what's popular and the associated money worth your voice?

Detach from the moment and look at yourself and those around you and, particularly, yourself. What do you need to change? what will lead to those changes? What do you need to do? where do you need to be

When is not releasing a project because it's not 'good enough' or 'just not ready' harming the project or even harming yourself?

What would it take for you to do what you want today, right now?