Thursday, February 4, 2010

If it’s working, do more of it

crabapplesRecently somebody wrote online somewhere that “what isn’t working is getting too much attention. That instead of continuing to focus on fixing what isn’t working may a better approach would be to figure out what is working and to do more of it.(paraphrased)” (This was a very loose paraphrase from Chip and Dan Heath in "What Matters Now" p.50)

What’s not to like about this idea? You can give yourself permission to stop feeling like a failure, which is probably resulting from pouring every minute into fixing something that might possibly be unfixable, and go work on something that might (likely) result in some positive feelings, because it is working and it’s doing something beneficial.

Fixing what isn’t working is a very seductive temptation. We get these notions that if we just fix this little wrench in the works that the machinery starts working perfectly and life turns out beautifully (insert your personal Kodak-moment image). But be realistic, how often when you have succeeded in fixing the non-working glitch has everything turned out beautifully? Not very often, if at all right.

This is not about the garden variety of incidental breakdowns and routine repairs; this is about those chronic cases where a system is unable to operate reliably as it was designed and every fix turns up another needed fix so that fix can operate. This is attention and resource quicksand.

With my word and theme for the year of accomplish, and my intention to accomplish some specific things by the end of the year, I have been doing an assessment of what I have been spending my time on and what kind of return am I getting for my investment.

Keepers and quitters

- As of now I quit rewriting my resume. Resumes only work for long-tail linear career types who never change industries. I have never gotten a job based on a resume and most people can’t even understand it because resumes are supposed to be linear, scannable, and contain super-secret insider codes so HR-types can say “no” in 30 seconds.

- I also will no longer fill out job applications that take more than two pages (with allowance for font) and 15 minutes. It is a waste of time and emotional energy to compile what is basically a written interview and ship it out only to get no response; not even a receipt card. A four to six page application demanding every job held in your entire life has no point except to avoid the interviewing process.

- I have indefinitely shelved the plans to move my blog to another platform. I love blogging and the blog and online community; however, without regular and consistent internet access it does not make sense to launch a project that will create stress about how to manage it.

All of that said though, I am not quitting everything. One thing I have been working more on have been the ideas from Seth Godin’s post last year on Graduate School for unemployed college students.” I have had to tweak some of the specifics but I don’t think he’d object.

- I am working on learning more about Photoshop Elements and what it can do. Godin was talking about writing software codes (bullet 2) but if I really want to explore more artistic outlets I don’t need code I need to deftly manipulate the electronic tools at my disposal and produce art.

- Along that line, I cleaned and tuned my sewing machine. I also created a niche for sewing in my dining area that doesn’t look like a sewing room when I’m not sewing.

- Another suggestion was to coach a little league team (bullet 3). I never played an organized sport and I feel my ignorance would be hazardous to the kids. But maybe I can generate interest in a youth writing workshop so I am drafting a proposal along this line. This also aligns with his point about writing three project plans (bullet 8).

- I am working on an idea for an ebook for later in the year (bullet 9). This will be a learning curve in writing something this large and stand-alone for public consumption as well as learning the technicalities of building an ebook; so maybe the codes show up after all.

There are other things still in the sketchbook stage; but just working on these and continuing to pursue additional work will keep me plenty busy this month along with getting ready for tax time.

So do you have something that no amount of effort has yet fixed? Is it time to move on to something that is working?

Note: This post has been edited to update citation and links.


chelle said...

hmm interesting. I have to think about this different perspective :)

ishitagupta said...

hi deb,

i publish a magazine called fear.less, stories of overcoming fear where we talk to innovators and leaders about their fears- in the arts, in business, in the non-profit world. you can see the website at

i read your blog and love the way you write. would you be interested in writing a piece for the magazine?

we have over 5000 readers from our newsletter and thousands more through our blogs and distribution partners. and we'd include a link to any site or current project.

please let me know!


Melissa Donovan said...

This is similar to the policy I've established for Writing Forward. I read a lot of articles related to blogging and writing that say "don't do this and don't do that." I wanted to keep my blog focused on the positive: do this and try that, and if works, do more of it :)