Moving the needle.
Even though I know time is arbitrary and we’re all on our own paths, I can’t help but feel a whoosh of why-aren’t-I-any-closer-to-where-I-want-to-be-anxiety every time something of note flies by — a new year, a birthday, an anniversary of a global pandemic…
What do you want to be doing 100 days from now? What change do you seek to be making? With which skills? Surrounded by which people? For that to happen, day 99 will need to different from today. And so will day 98. In fact, so will tomorrow. If we keep focusing on ‘what’s next’ we might never get around to doing the work we need to do to get us to day 100.
p.s. happy day 100 of 2021.
I know that my number one thing is to be writing and making narrative comedy.
So with that in mind — and my love of deadlines — I’m setting myself a 100 day challenge, with the aim of getting much closer to that goal by the 200th day of the year, Monday July 19th.
And to help me, I’m going to use two principles that I read about and internalised a long time ago, but haven’t been disciplined enough to apply to my day-to-day life:
One of my favourite non-fiction books is Principles by Ray Dalio. Among other things, he talks about how you shouldn’t rule out goals because you think they’re unattainable:
There is always a best possible path. Your job is to find it and have the courage to follow it. What you think is attainable is just a function of what you know at the moment. Once you start your pursuit you will learn a lot, especially if you triangulate with others; paths you never saw before will emerge… Remember that great expectations create great capabilities. If you limit your goals to what you know you can achieve, you are setting the bar way too low.
So while it’s tempting to play it safe and set a goal like “finish two polished pilot scripts” (which I’m fairly confident I could do), I’m going to set it as: get a job writing narrative comedy.
I know it’s probably not going to happen. And I feel very awkward about writing it down, knowing that other people are going to read this. But let’s see how far I can get!
At the very least, it’ll stop me wasting time on motion rather than action. For example: I finished writing the first draft of my current sitcom pilot before Christmas, but then spent most of January and February on ‘exploratory free writing’ to try and solve some of the issues with it.
However, now that I’ve actually started writing script pages again, I realise that was all mostly a waste of time, driven by fear and perfectionism. Sure, exploration and experimenting is a useful part of the process — but I should’ve done that by making decisions and rewriting scenes.
But now that I’ve only got 100 days, I won’t have time to make that mistake again!
“When she shared her predicament with a wise older woman, that woman said, “What are you willing to give up, in order to have the life you keep saying that you want?” Liz said, “You’re right—I really need to start learning how to say no to things I don’t want to do.” The wise woman corrected her: “No, it’s much harder than that. You need to learn how to start saying no to things you do want to do, with the recognition that you have only one life, and you don’t have time and energy for everything.” - Elizabeth Gilbert, summarised by Amber Rae.
My other problem is that I get distracted a lot.
Every time a new opportunity or idea enters my brain, my automatic response is: yes, please! And sometimes that is a good strategy — I do work and build relationships that come in useful down the line. (As Steve Jobs put it, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward”). But then I’m often frustrated when I’m behind on my own things, so maybe I shouldn’t be in that mode all the time.
So for the next 100 days, I’ll honour commitments that I’ve already made, but I won’t say yes to anything new — including my own ideas — except for these three things:
And if anything comes up, I’ll stick it on the list for the next 100 days.
So there we go! If this approach appeals to you — and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t, because it’s not the only valid approach — then let me know if you want to join in! Let’s do this 🥳