A "Resolution" for 2015


by Keith Ostfeld -

I HATE using the term "New Year's Resolution." It carries so much baggage with it and it tends to be some BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal - for those who read certain business books) that feels seemingly impossible come January 1 and so ends up being dropped within the first few weeks. That's not to say I haven't tackled some BHAGs. For example, at the start of 2013, this is what I looked like (technically, I shot this video in late 2012, but you get the idea):

Since January 2013, I have lost over 140 pounds:

(I've also gained a few more gray hairs, but Papa Time is cruel). However, I didn't start off with a resolution of "I want to lose 140 pounds." Well, actually, I did for several years in a row which went nowhere fast because it seemed so insurmountable that I simply couldn't do it and gave up quickly after starting. The difference between 2013 and prior years was that I was very realistic with myself. My wife signed us up for a weight loss pool with some friends on Facebook where, for 8 weeks, we'd track what we ate, exercise for at least 30 minutes a few times a week, eat more fruit and veggies, drink more water, and avoid sweets for most of the week. Doing each of these things successfully earned points as did loss of weight. Each participant tossed in $20 and the total pot was split between the person earning the most points and the person losing the greatest % of body weight. My goal was simple - earn the most points possible for those 8 weeks (which also happened ot be the most points in the group). But, what I discoved was that after 8 weeks, many of these tasks that I had to really focus on for the first several weeks had become habit. I was eating healthier, I wanted to exercise more often, and, best of all, I was losing weight. And now, I weight less than I did when I graduated from high school.

So what does this have to do with making? Good question - I seemed to have gone off on a bit of a tangent from where I had intended. Earlier today, I read an inspirational post from fellow FabLearn Fellow Juliet Wanyiri about how she and her students rolled up their sleeves and dove into solving a real-life problem in Uganda (don't want to give it away - read the post!). But it made me think - how many times have I gotten excited about wanting to make something new, often using technology or tools of which I only have peripheral familiarity, but spent so long trying to figure it out in my head so that it would be perfect that I failed to ever get started. My desire to make something that measured up to my "perfection" standards left me in a state of perpetual non-starting. Why? I constantly create things for work that I would have to tinker and sometimes toss out and start all over, whether it was an idea for an exhibit, a funding proposal, an article, or a prototype for an activity. And I regularly dive into working with my daughters to help them make things for their school projects or when they are excited about a new hobby (I'm looking at you Rainbow Loom!). I'm wondering how many other people suffer from this same issue, where new ideas stay just as ideas because, frankly, it is easier?

I think it comes down to the fact that, for me at least, I have timelines and due dates at work. In other words, at work and with my kids, I have no choice but to dive in and go. I can't spend a ton of time trying to figure out how to make it perfect (and, in doing so, procrastinate against the struggling part of the tasks). However, since I don't really set deadlines for myself at home for my personal making hobbies, I can just let the ideas slide while other things in life naturally insert themselves, allowing me to avoid any struggles with the ideas.  

But, it is now time to get to making. So, my "resolution" for this year is to pick one of my making projects, one that involves me having to learn something new, one that I've been "getting around to finishing," and set a short timeline for it. To me, this isn't some sort of BHAG like "I will finish my personal projects." Rather, it is something I can easily do that will hopefully start a new set of habits that will allow me to make my personal making life as effective as my professional one. I think I'll start with that shelf system for my desk to help me organize my desktop a bit more...

Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year and hope that you have time to make something for yourselves!


Heather Pang's picture

Keith, I love it!  I was thinking about some kind of maker goal for the year, maybe finish a new project once a month, but I also like the idea of learning new tools.  I will have to think about that.

And on another note, your weight loss is inspirational, well done.  Do you have those rules from the facebook group challenge, that sounds like a nice way to start, and I love a little healthy competition.