I’ve spent the last few months darting around in respect to what I want to focus on. Earlier in the year, I wrote a post titled What I’m Working On In 2015 that outlined some of my plans for the year. In it I talked a lot about Meteor, and my desire to invest a lot of time in my project The Meteor Chef.
I got distracted. At the end of January, I decided to leave a contract position I’d held for just shy of a year. My goal at the time was to invest more time into The Meteor Chef. That plan hasn’t changed, but rather, just returned from a detour. To be blunt: I spooked myself. The confidence that prompted my exit from a more steady income quickly eroded as I realized I hadn’t planned as well as I thought when it came to turning The Meteor Chef into a serious business.
To compensate, I decided to take on some consulting work. I spun myself the usual tale of “I’ll just do this to fund my personal projects.” The work wasn’t bad—far from it—but it was distracting. In truth, it wasn’t even the idea of having work that was attractive, it was all about the money.
This got my wheels spinning. I’d started making a mistake I’ve made before: thinking I could do both. I figured I could split my time between consulting work and The Meteor Chef. This sounded great, but as soon as I settled into a few consulting projects, my focus on The Meteor Chef was shot. Instead of splitting my time evenly, it became mostly about the client work. So much so that I’ve been trying to convince myself this is what I want to do, sinking far more time into building a consulting business than I planned.
Money is intoxicating. When you make it, even just a little, you latch on to whatever the thing is that’s producing it. You put that thing on a pedestal, above everything else. Doing this with consulting work, I slowly started to feel the anxious pangs of years past. Worrying about where the next project would come from, sinking time into reading about how best to tune my process. The further I went down the rabbit hole, the more I felt myself losing that spark I’d felt when I first started The Meteor Chef.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been putting my non-consulting time into the next iteration of The Meteor Chef. Every single time I sat down to work on it, I got lost in it. I wasn’t just getting work done, I was having fun. Lots of fun. The work I was producing was better, too. I can’t recall who said it, so I’ll paraphrase here, but a thought that stuck with me recently was “if you’re wondering what you should be doing, find whatever you’re working on where you find yourself losing track of time. That’s what you should be doing.”
It’s true, too. Several times last week I sat up late comitting time to The Meteor Chef. I was so engrossed with what I was doing that I lost track of time. I knew, then, that this is where I should be spending my time. There’s just one problem…
The Meteor Chef as a business isn’t currently sustainable. It makes little to no money, which means I have to take on some sort of work in order to survive. That’s fine, but the why behind that work is a little more clear now. Whereas before I was trying to build a business around consulting, now, I’ve decided to look at it for what it is: a means to survive. An investment into The Meteor Chef.
So…where’s the balance? That’s the tricky part. I have some ideas for how to best do it, but in all honesty I’m just going to play it by ear. I’ve invested far too much time trying to make the future more predictable, when really, my time would have been better suited as an investment back into what I really care about (and enjoy). Had I taken that approach originally, I’d probably a be a lot further along than I am in respect to The Meteor Chef.
I’ve been reading Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, the head of Pixar. It’s a great look at how Ed navigated the early trials and tribulations of the company, and how he used that as a learning mechanism to build his management skills. As he reflects on going down dead end roads:
It isn’t enough to pick a path—you must go down it. By doing so, you see things you couldn’t possibly see when you started out; you may not like what you see, some of it may be confusing, but at least you have, as we like to say, “explored the neighborhood.”
He’s right. Going down a path—not just thinking about what it would be like—lets you truly evaluate it. If you’re conscious in the process, you can learn a lot and better inform future decisions. When you do go down a fruitless path, it should be looked at as a research cost. Time well spent figuring out “nope, that’s not what we want to do.”
For now, I’ll still do consulting work for the sake of funding The Meteor Chef and monthly expenses, but I’ve explored the “neighborhood of consulting” and it’s not where my heart is at. I’ll be going down the path I’d set out on earlier this year, this time, with a little more certainty and a lot more focus.