The escape velocity stool

Chris Brogan has coined a very useful term: Escape Velocity. While these words have been used in the rocketry field for years, they’re new in the context of personal goals and achievement.

It means having the means to escape a situation you wish to escape. I think the common interpretation is getting out of a hated job, but I think all of us would love to be more independent. The problem is that we tend to quantize this: either we’re independent, or we’re not. But really, I think there is a vast middle ground.

A long time ago Jeff Kirvin wrote about having multiple sources of income as a hedge against layoffs or other workplace calamity, and it’s a great concept. If you build lots of income streams, presumably you become less dependent on each one. If you have enough of them, you have a better hedge against recession.

The problem is that they don’t call it a full time job for no reason. It takes a lot of energy just to keep your employer properly satisfied. Add a family, some free time, and time to build any escape velocity to that and it becomes a fanstastically challenging problem to fit it all in, which of course provides an entire market for countless other blogs to tap into. There have been lots of posts here and there with tips about how to squeeze more into less time, so I’m not going to get into that.

Instead I’ll cover the legs of my escape velocity stool:

Free the mind. Anyone who’s a student of David Allen will recognize the need to keep the clutter of unclosed loops out of one’s head, to free up the mind for larger pursuits. For me this means working harder to keep on top of those kinds of things that chew up backgound processing: Keeping things tidier, and taking care of nagging items.

Improve the body. I also do more when I feel better, and I always feel better when I’m thinner and in better shape. Losing weight to improve my health & energy, but also to improve my own self esteem. Gaining fitness to increase energy, but also manage stress and make myself more tolerant of sleep interruption (with an infant in the house).

Apply ass to chair. This was a quote from Michael Rhode’s mentor when Michael asked how one got to be a better writer, and it sums things up perfectly. Most everything I wish to accomplish will be done either by writing code, content, or communication, and by applying ass to chair to get it done. This has been the hardest by far, as anyone keeping an eye on my sites or twitter will notice.

The missing element.

There’s a missing element, however. I’ve noticed that as I go through my various lists of things I ‘should’ do  – the items I’d written earlier with the best of intentions – I know that when I wrote it, I was thinking ‘this is a simple thing, it has a little value, and it might have a lot more, so do it.’

But later it seems stupid and pointless. I don’t see the value. It no longer has the sizzle it did when I wrote it, and next to a dozen other now-desizzled items each one just seems lame.

The fourth leg. To overcome this last challenge think the final leg of the stool needs to be faith in one’s self. They tell test takers that their first answer is usually right and to be wary of going back and changing answers. I think the same applies to all those little improvement and content ideas I come up with. This means that whenever I look over one of those ideas that was important enough to write down, the question isn’t ‘Is this this still worth doing?’ but ‘Is there really a good reason not to do it?’

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