August 2020 Theme: Empty

For all of 2020, I’m trying something different. Every month I’m setting a theme. As part of that theme, I’m also setting goals and habits to help it along the way. These themes aren’t limited to the month. Each is for the entire year and in addition to everything else added before it.

It’s August now, which means this is the 8th month with a theme. So

I picked these themes based on what I felt was the most important at the time to help me stay emotionally grounded, productive, and happy.

Push to reset the world

Last Months Theme: Vision

For July, my theme was vision. A vision for the future seemed to be something I was missing this year. Like a lot of people, our lives are very much in a holding position – waiting for this pandemic to end.

My hope was that by spending a month with “vision” in the forefront of my mind I would magically come up with a more clear reason for why I was working on the things I’m currently working on. That’s obviously not the way motivation works. If you’re struggling to do something difficult, even if it’s to accomplish a goal you believe you, what you’re most lacking isn’t vision – it’s grit.

For last month’s theme, I tried to do a few things:

I revised my 101 Things I Want to Know, Have, Do or Be list. Just creating this list was inspiring. It made me feel more excited about the future – even if it’ll be years before I hit up Oktoberfest, see the northern lights or visit every National Park.

Created a local bucket list of activities that I can only do within a day of home. This involved researching local spots, talking with friends for recommendations, and filtering it down to what was most exciting. Many of these activities are COVID-19 friendly too.

There was one unexpected result of this month’s theme: a better understanding of what role I want Minafi to play in my life. When I stopped working about a year and a half ago, I jumped fully into working on Minafi. I’m not working full-time on it like a job, but I’ve definitely been putting in the hours to turn the many ideas in my head into interactive posts, courses, a fund directory, and so much more.

Thinking more about what role I want Minafi to play in my life caused me to realize what I want and don’t want out of it:

I don’t want Minafi to be (or feel like) a job. I don’t want to have to release content on a specific cadence. I don’t want to be an “influencer” or be constantly Tweeting about new takes. I don’t want to spend time organizing large groups of people. I don’t want to constantly be writing SEO articles.

Pie and beer day
“Pioneer Day” is a Mormon holiday. “Pie and Beer Day” is a non-Mormon holiday we celebrate!

Instead, I want Minafi to be a playground. It’s a place to create whatever strikes me as fun and useful. I don’t mind organizing or being a part of smaller groups. I’m more interested in going The Mad Fientest route where I spend my time on what I’m most enthusiastic to work on.

So what does that mean for Minafi going forward? Not too much will change actually. For the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time working on The Minafi Investor Bootcamp and the Fund Directory. Now I plan to take a little break and spend time working on some non-Minafi projects.

In June (Explore) I started learning iOS development (which I’ve tried to learn a few times). It’s been a lot of fun so far. I have an app in mind I want to build that’ll be primarily just for me to use.

Weller Lake Trail Bridge in Aspen
Weller Lake Trail Bridge in Aspen

Jumping straight into a project after leaving a job is a great identity bridge – a way to maintain a similar sense of self during a major life change. For me, Minafi has been that bridge. 18 months later it feels like that bridge has done its job, but I’m ready to do something else. What that something else is? I have no clue.

There is something I do know though: I truly enjoy working on long-term projects that can grow over time. Even if those projects change, I love having things that I’m passionate about and care about working on.

It’s only by taking a break from the current projects that we can open doors to new projects. Not having anything to work on can feel completely aimless, or it can be empowering! In June (Explore) I tried opening myself up to try new things. The result? I learned some new programming skills (GraphQL for one), started learning iOS development, learned some DevOps skills to set up a site on Digital Ocean, and ended up creating a whole new website for fun (just for personal use – we’ll see if I ever share it out).

August Theme: Empty

The takeaway from this experience hasn’t made sense all at once, but after some reflection, it’s come into focus:

The best to open yourself up to new opportunities is to stop what you’re currently doing and be open to them.

Why Empty?

As for why “empty”? It comes from the very old phrase: “Empty Your Cup”. It’s often associated with martial arts teaching. It’s a story I’ve always loved but haven’t always embraced:

A master was attempting to teach a student a new move. The student was struggling and would fail over and over. The problem wasn’t that the student was unskilled, but they were attempting to hold on to their current mental models.

The master sat down to pour them both some tea. After pouring both cups, the master told the student he wanted to give him some more tea from his cup.

The student panicked, “my cup is full! I can’t accept any more tea until empty my cup”. The master replied, “yes I know. And I can’t give you any more ideas or life lessons until you clear your mind and make room for them.”

The student pondered for a moment with a look of absolute bewilderment. Then a look of enlightenment came over him, followed by a smile, and a look of receptiveness. The master started to explain again, and this time the student saw what the master was trying to say.

If that sounds scary, it’s because it is! In the case of interests, hobbies, and personal projects it’s obviously much easier to pause and reflect than in a career, but the idea is the same.

Have you ever taken a vacation and then returned back to your job with a new and fresh set of eyes? Maybe you were able to see past problems in a new light or come up with unseen solutions. Or maybe by coming back you realized this wasn’t the job for you after all.

Getting to that feeling with my own personal projects is my theme for August. Spending some time with my mind away from what I usually spend time on.

Maybe during that time away, I’ll find something new to spend time on. Maybe I’ll return to what I’m working on reinvigorated and ready to tackle projects I’ve already thought about. Maybe I’ll wipe the slate clean and work on something else, or with something else?

At this point, I’m not sure. Only some time away will tell!

And don’t worry, there’s no way I intend to completely stop working on things here on Minafi. If anything I hope to be more strategic with my time – focusing on the parts that make me the happiest: writing new articles and creating more interactive articles!

Have you ever tried “emptying your cup”? How did it go?

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I'm , a full-stack product developer in Salt Lake City, UT. I love enlivening experiences, visualizing data, and making playful websites.

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