Idea Factory: Scanner Blog Network

This post is part of Sententia’s Idea Factory. Everything contained within is free for use, modification, adaptation, etc. — just let me know how you used it! If you like, you can also make a donation that reflects the value that you feel you got from this idea. To find out more about the Idea Factory and licensing terms, read the about page.

As part of my efforts to become more “connected” with others around me (see here, and here), I’ve been a bit more active on twitter lately @maverickstruth — trying to actually (gasp!) converse and connect with people when I’m able.

The other day, I caught this tweet from @BarbaraSher:

Scanners, let’s talk here at #R2C (Refuse to Choose and don’t make me say that again) 😉 (I’m not entirely sure I understand hashtags yet)

Suffice it to say, Barbara and others managed to understand hashtags well enough to get some conversation going. One of the first things I suggested was a blog exchange — specifically amongst those of us who have “scanner stories”. My contribution was, of course, A Scanner’s Journey.

Christy, a fellow scanner who blogs over at More than Mommy noticed the post, and came up with the interesting suggestion that maybe we ought to have a scanner “blog network” so all of us blogging scanners can connect with each other. That really piqued my interest, and so I’ve spent a bit of time figuring out the different ways that could happen.

So, without further ado … the Idea Factory of a Scanner Blog Network. Here’s some of my ideas on ways to go about creating such a network.

1. Formal Blog Network

If you’re not familiar with blog networks, a great place to start is with 9rules, a massive blog community covering a huge number of topics.

Basically, a formal blog network typically has a main page where latest posts from all the member blogs are listed in one aggregated place. Members have profiles and gain exposure from the traffic from network pages, and there is often a forum or conversation mechanism for all the people of the blog network to converse and keep up with each other.

Often blogs can be categorized into one category or another — although for scanners who write on a number of topics, this may not be all that appropriate! Some blog networks also allow people to submit their favorite or best posts to the site, for featuring and cross-posting.

Pros: This is probably best option for aggregating traffic, as it provides a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to read the writings (and ramblings) of scanners. Easiest for scanners to add their blogs — just sign up and go — and the added bonus of having a community feel with discussion areas, etc.

Cons: A fair amount of overhead to set up and maintain. Needs someone to take the lead on administrating (not hard if you know how to do it, but it really needs to be a labour of love if you’re going to do it for free!).

Options: Could do something like a lens on Squidoo to facilitate this, or if we really wanted to get fancy, set up an actual software platform to facilitate the network (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc. all could work for this).

2. Informal Blog Network (Blog Rings)

Before there were blog network “hub” sites, there were blog rings. A blog ring is basically a way to connect a circle of blogs together.

Usually, each blog in the ring adds a piece of code to their website (a widget) which automatically hooks the blog into the “ring”. Visitors to one blog canthen navigate through to other blogs in the ring, eventually working their way through the whole community.

Pros: Pretty easy to set-up, you just need someone to create the ring at a place like RingSurf, and then anyone who wants to be a member of the ring can just hook into it. Knowledge of how to copy-paste HTML code is typically needed. No need for administration; once the ring is set-up, it works all on its own.

Cons: It can be difficult to keep inappropriate sites out of the ring. Usually requires basic HTML knowledge to implement on individual sites. Can’t just browse through all of the sites in the ring at once — you have to go through them one at a time, and hope that you come across something helpful/interesting.

Options: RingSurf is the defacto leader in this field; I’m not familiar with other options, but I know they’re out there.

3. Link Exchanges

The most basic form of networking, this one is incumbent on each blogger to get in touch with other bloggers, and post links to each others’ blogs on their respective websites. Basically, this is a specialized form of a blogroll, where typically only links that are reciprocated are posted.

Pros: Most blogging platforms have a built-in blogroll option, so all that an individual blogger has to do is add links to sites. There is no centralized “hub” for blogs, so no administration is needed.

Cons: Link exchanges depend on the individual bloggers asking for links from others, and then posting links on their own site. Because there’s no centralization, there’s no guarantee that all blogs in the network will be connected to each other — in fact, what usually happens is a core set of blogs are connected all over the place, and the rest are left with limited links. Can be hard to “discover” new bloggers.

Options: This is the fastest option to implement, as it only requires scanners to get in touch with each other and ask for links to be swapped. Can be done by individual bloggers, no need for a centralized set of “options”.

4. Guest Posts and/or Blog Carnivals

Often useful in connection with any of the other three options, guest posts and blog carnivals are a good way of driving visitors from one site to another.

Guest posts are exactly what they sound like — one blogger offers to write content for another blogger’s site. This is a very common practice in the blog world.

A blog carnival is an organized effort by a number of bloggers to all post on a similar topic at the same time (in the same week, for example), and then at the end, post an article linking to all of the other posts in the carnival.

Pros: Easy to combine with any of the other options, allows exposure to other scanner’s blogs quickly and easily.  Technically very easy, as it just requires doing what bloggers already do best: writing posts, and posting them.

Cons: Not really a “network” solution, more of a way to let visitors know about some of the other sites out there. Not centralized at all, and doesn’t imply permanent exposure — there’s no sidebar of links prominently displayed at all times, for example. Blog carnivals do require someone to take the lead on setting a topic, timeline, etc.

Options: Guest posts, like link exchanges, happen between individual bloggers.  Blog carnivals are usually set up using a tool like BlogCarnival.

Alright scanners, what do you think? Do any of the options above sound interesting to you? Leave a comment if you have any ideas of your own — or if you see something you like, feel free to take the idea and run with it!

Review: The Renaissance Soul

Are you a W.A. Mozart or a Benjamin Franklin? In other words, do you like to dive deeply into one subject and give it all your attention, or are you more happy when you’re jumping from idea to idea?

That question is at the heart of Margaret Lobenstine’s The Renaissance Soul. And the subtitle of the book (Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One) is a good first clue if Lobenstine’s message will resonate with you.

Before getting too far into the review, it’s probably a good thing to set the stage. So (borrowing from the back cover):

Do you enjoy following a diverse and evolving set of interests? Do you get down on yourself for being a “jack of all trades and master of none”? Do you feel trapped by others’ expectations of you to stay in your current field forever? Do you feel envy when someone says, “I’ve always known exactly what I wanted to do with my life?”

That description sounds very much like me, and so this review will be written from that perspective. If that sounds like you, then this review will probably make sense; if it doesn’t, you may have a harder time understanding exactly where I’m coming from. Just as I can’t understand how you can be wired to know what you want to “do with your life”, you may not be able to understand that I (and other “Renaissance Souls” aren’t wired the same way).

But don’t let that stop you… let’s get on with the review itself.

What’s It About

As I suggested above, The Renaissance Soul is basically a guidebook for people who (like me, Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo DaVinci, and a host of others) have so many passions and interests that choosing just one feels constraining.

Those of you who are familiar with Barbara Sher’s work will recognize “Renaissance Soul” as a synonym with Sher’s term “Scanner” — and they are in fact the same thing. In fact, Lobenstine makes reference to Sher’s work in her resources section as well as in some of her content.

The Renaissance Soul content itself is divided into five sections, intended by the author to provide a whole view of career and life design planning for the self-proclaimed Renaissance Soul. Starting from identifying yourself as such a Soul (and learning that there really is nothing wrong with you) through to learning how to model this personality for others like you (so they don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with them), Soul’s map covers the whole spectrum.

What is a Renaissance Soul

Lobenstine starts with a description of what exactly it means to be a Renaissance Soul. In the section entitled “Claiming Your Renaissance Soul,” she gives lots of examples of Renaissance Souls — the situations we find ourmselves in, the dilemmas we face, and she does a very good job of acknowledging that people in all walks of life and in all situations can be Renaissance Souls.

Some of the examples may seem a bit unrealistic to attain in our own lives (Benjamin Franklin being the biggest example), but it’s reassuring to know that if you’re a Renaissance Soul, there’s nothing wrong with you. Lobenstine also carefully points out that just because you have a variety of interests doesn’t mean that you automatically are a “genious” or more intelligent than anyone else — it doesn’t exclude the possibility, but being one isn’t a requirement.

That’s a good point to make, as it’d be easy to otherwise look at the classic examples of Renaissance Soul-“ness” (DaVinci comes to mind) and feel as though the book wasn’t really speaking to you. But Lobenstine is very careful to keep the definition very broad and welcoming, and it works.

How Does a Renaissance Soul Live?

The bulk of The Renaissance Soul centers around life- and career- design for Souls. In particular, she spends a good deal of time talking about identifying your Focus Points — interests and overreaching patterns of interests that draw you in at the moment — and finding ways to integrate those focus points into your everyday life.

Lobenstine dedicates a chapter to what she calls the “J-O-B” — a way to connect your goals and focus points into a career which brings them into alignment. You may feel that it’s impossible to bring all of your varied interests under one roof, but Lobenstine mentions many different techniques (such as the “umbrella”, in which you have one “J-O-B” that encompasses many areas: being a writer that writes about everything from Ancient Greece to emerging technologies, for example)

If you’re younger — high school or college age — Lobenstine has specific tricks on picking colleges and programs that can foster the … er… “Spirit” of the Renaissance Soul; if you don’t want to go back to school, there’s suggestions for that route as well.

One of the best sections in The Renaissance Soul is a short piece in which Lobenstine talks about perfectionism — it seems that for many Souls, perfectionism goes hand-in-hand. She notes,

What do you do if you’re a perfectionist as well as a Renaissance Soul? I learned long ago that it’s impossible to talk perfectionists out of perfectionism. A far better strategy for adapting to roadblocks created by this character trait is to learn how to become a perfect perfectionist — someone who knows when a task demands 100 percent perfection, when it calls for 75 percent perfection or 50 percent perfection, and when 25 percent perfection will do.

Even before reading about Lobenstine’s formula, this is something that I had found myself naturally starting to do, and let me tell you — it does make a big difference. Simply looking at something and asking if 100% perfection really is necessary can save a lot of headache.

Overall Thoughts

For some people, the notion of being a “Renaissance Soul” is foreign — societally, it’s seen as a bad thing, and such “souls” are called jack-of-all-trades’ or dilettantes. Where Lobenstine’s book shines is in showing Renaissance Souls that it is possible for them to find a place in this world which is targetted to “Mozarts.” Especially if you are looking to make a career move, or are just starting out in the career world, Lobenstine’s book offers some strong suggestions.

That being said, it’s not for everyone. Clearly, non-Renaissance-Souls won’t get as much out of the book. Apart from that, though, not all Souls are created equal. We don’t all function the same way — and as such, because Lobenstine often only offers one or two solutions, the suggested plan of attack just won’t resonate with all Renaissance Souls. For those that it does resonate with, it will really resonate.

I found myself actually falling a bit more on the side of “didn’t resonate”, to be honest. To me, this was especially true in the distinction that Lobenstine makes between Career Design and Life Design. Although early on, she acknowledges that “Renaissance Soul coaching … is not limited to career planning. It is about life design as well,” I found that for me the book was a bit heavy on the career planning side of things.

I personally think of career planning as an extension of life planning, and Lobenstine’s book almost put it the other way around: life planning read as an extension of career planning. Not that either is right or wrong in approach; it’s just a different approach that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around.

Whatever the reason, the main points of the book just didn’t resonate with me (the “J-O-B” idea, the “Focus Points” description, etc.) — but at the same time, I recognize that the book does have huge ability to resonate with people. At times, I felt the book was a little thin on explanation, but I’m also acutely aware that it may just be that it just wasn’t suited to me; I’m not sure.

My Verdict

Ultimately, deciding whether this book is “for you” will rest on one major factor. If you struggle to know what to do with your life, simply because there are so many things you want to do, then give it a read. The writing is light and easy, and overall it’s a fairly quick read.

Personally, I felt as though Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose! was a better overall read (it resonated more, and just felt better organized and more clearly written) — but I know people who have had the exact opposite feeling on the subject

At the very worse, you’ll feel as I did: a good read, but not quite right for you. At best, you’ll have found a book that shows you how to truly give your Soul a voice.

Either way, if you feel that you have too many passions to pick just one, I recommend giving The Renaissance Soul a look.

What I Wish I’d Known

I’m a pretty recent grad (albeit, from two degrees — I just couldn’t get away!), but I like to think that I’ve learned and grown a fair amount in the last few years. So when Trent at The Simple Dollar challenged his readers to answer this big question (What single piece of advice do you wish you had heard when you were about to graduate college?), I paused for a few moments to reflect on what I had learned “lately”.  Here’s what I came up with…

You have choices — more than immediately appear — and the good news is that there are no mistakes.

Now, I admit, it’s a bit esoteric and may not be very clear what I mean at first blush. I think a lot of the specific advice you hear for new grads can be wrapped up in this statement: “Travel before getting a job”, “Never stop learning”, “Don’t choose a job just for the money”

But there’s more to it than that. This isn’t just about an approach for new grads; it’s an approach for everyone to learn to take. It’s not an approach that I’ve fully mastered in my own life, and to be honest I’m not sure I ever will fully master it. But it’s a direction and a philosophy that I’ve found valuable, simply because it does allow me to grow, learn and develop within it.

So with that in mind, let me break it down a bit for you, and maybe show you what that statement means for me today (which, of course, may have evolved further by tomorrow!)

You Have Choices

It’s easy to point to times of significant life change (like college graduation) and point out all the opportunities that lie ahead. We get images of new horizons, broad open paths, and infinite possibilities.

The truth is, new grad or not, you always have new horizons, open paths, and infinite possibilities ahead of you. Why? Because you are always the ultimate authority in your life. You are the one who controls your destiny, because you are the one that can make the choices.

Don’t like your job? It is your choice to stay in it or to leave. Swimming in debt? It’s your choice to continue spending or start repaying. Out of shape? You can choose between watching TV or doing some jumping jacks.

You always have the choice to change your life. Even if it doesn’t seem possible right now, that doesn’t change the fact that it ultimately is your decisions that shape your present and future. Even refusing to make a choice is still making a choice — the one that says that the status-quo is okay.

If you’re unhappy with where you’re at, you do have choices. The only thing that can prevent you from taking advantage of this is you.

More Than Immediately Appear

In some ways, it’s easy to see the choices in front of you. Apple or orange? Walk or drive? Stay or go?

Sometimes, there are even so many choices that it can seem overwhelming — like there are so many possibilities, you don’t know which way to turn.

I experienced this when I graduated; the feeling of “oh my God, now what?!?” My problem wasn’t that I didn’t recognize that I had choices, but that I felt like I had so many options that I couldn’t just pick one. Did I want to do more schooling? Travel? Work for myself? Or for someone else? And in what industry? Something tech related, something more people-focused, in an office, out in the field, … so many choices!

I ended up drifting from thing to thing for about a year before ultimately realizing that my problem wasn’t too many choices; it was that I had another choice, but I had disregarded it out of hand.

For me, the ignored choice was to not just pick one thing to do “for the rest of my life,” but to take advantage of my many loves and passions, and pursue them all. Not necessarily all at the same time (although some fit nicely together), but to not to fall into the trap of believing that I couldn’t continue to explore new things as they interested me.

The reason I hadn’t initially thought of this is because it’s counter to societal norms. In our culture, we focus on the one “thing” you want to “be” for the rest of your life (the sign that you’ve “grown up”). “What do you do” is a question that implies a single answer — but what I realized is that just because it wasn’t common didn’t mean I couldn’t make a choice to pursue a widely varied life.

Eliminating choices is a good thing to do, but sometimes, it’s also valuable to realize that you do have more choices than initially appear. Thinking “outside the box” can sometimes be just the thing you need to set you on a new course.

There Are No Mistakes

Ah, but going outside of the “normal” set of choices can be dangerous, right? After all, aren’t these well-established ideas “well-established” for a reason?

There’s a saying, “common sense is rarely common, and seldom sensical.” While that isn’t true in all cases, that doesn’t preclude the possiblity that doing something differently will turn out alright.

But even more than that, simply making the choice to try something will ultimately make you happier in the long run — even if that choice doesn’t work out the way you thought.

The reason is that making decisions allows our brains to live with and adjust to the resultant new realities. The outcome is that the simple act of making a choice can make you happier. Even if the choice made appears to be the “wrong” one, research shows that our minds are so adaptive that in only a very short amount of time after making a decision, we can be happy with the decision (I’ve written a fair amount about this aspect of choice before, so I’ll just leave it at that for now).

Ultimately, making mistakes is how we learn. If we never lost our balance, we wouldn’t know how to keep it. As I’ve noted before, “there are no mistakes, just opportunities to learn.”

Does It Make A Difference?

Would the advice — you have choices (more than immediately appear) and the good news is that there are no mistakes – have actually “changed my life” if I were to receive it when I was about to graduate — either the first or second time?

To be honest, I’m not actually sure. It certainly is the biggest thing I’ve learned since then. Understanding that I ultimately make the choices that determine the direction of my life, that I don’t have to be constrained to the obvious or normal path, and that any mistakes I make along the way serve to make me stronger and happier has made a massive difference in my own life.

I don’t know that just “hearing” this advice would have impacted me in the way that learning it by experience and trial-and-error has. But maybe, it will resonate with some of you, and help you see things in a different light.

What say you?

Weekly Reads: IxD Edition

Normally, I try to have something witty or at least interesting to say as a prologue to my weekly collection of links, but so far, I’m coming up empty.

As I indicated last week, I also don’t have my laptop at the moment (the repairs were to take 5-7 days, so you’d better believe I’m counting down!) so the list of links this week is also a bit shorter than usual.

On the plus side, I guess that’s a good thing in some ways, since it means I haven’t been bored at work :-). I’ve been busy researching and learning about Interaction Design.

The team I’m on at work is going to be working on implementing best practices, and it looks like I’ll be particularly responsible for the design, usability and accessibility aspects of things. With that in mind, if you have any IxD links to pass on, please do so — I’d love to add them to my reading pile.

If you would like to pass on anything you think I might be interested in, post the link as a comment to this thread! I’m always looking for new things to explore. Note that comments on this site are moderated, especially if they contain links, so if it doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry!

Made Me Think

Do You Believe in Free Will (from PsyBlog). Ah, free will. Basis for world religions around the world, and debates amongst philosophers for the ages.  But a new study shows that believing in free will can also have some interesting relations to behavioural patterns: a disbelief in free will decreases helping behaviours and increases aggression.

What Are You Good At? (from Seth Godin). What’s the difference between process and content? In this insightful piece, Seth Godin examines the value of having domain knowledge (skills, abilities, “head knowledge”, etc.) and its relation to the emotional intelligence that gives the ability to visualize, make connections, etc. I love this piece, because it really speaks to me. I don’t know if this is true of all scanners, but I find I more naturally identify with process than content anyway.

Why You Should Celebrate Your Mistakes (from Zen Habits). One of my favorite sayings is “there are no mistakes, just opportunities to learn.” Leo Babauta explores this understanding, by discussing how without mistakes we would never have opportunity to learn. Here’s a snippet: “So if you value learning, if you value growing and improving, then you should value mistakes. They are amazing things that make a world of brilliance possible.” Good stuff.

Bonus Material

Discovering Ricotta (from the New York Times). I’m really getting into this whole eating “real food” thing. While I have yet to make my own cheese, I think my first attempt may be with ricotta. I enjoy the store-bought stuff well enough (heresy!), so I’m eager to try some of the real thing. And it sure seems easy enough.

Weekly Reads: Contemplative Edition

I’ve had kind of an interesting week, to tell you the truth. I don’t particularly know why, and I can’t particularly put my finger on what has made it “interesting” — a lot of it I think is that I spent a lot of the week “practicing what I’ve been preaching” about choices lately, and the results have been pretty cool:

I pushed through some really big fears (thanks to those of you who helped; you know who you are), stood up for what I wanted and needed in some new and exciting ways, and stopped procrastinating on some personal growth experiments (like my Scanner Daybook) that I hadn’t had the get-up-and-go to do before. Heck, I even just about finished the really evil puzzle that I started over the Christmas break!

But as I sit here and write up my weekly reads, I’m in that somewhat strange contemplative state where you’re not really thinking about anything consciously, but you’ve got that feeling that your subconscious is having a really good go of something. Anyone else know that one, or am I the only crazy one?

I think my reading this week (and really, the past couple of weeks) has added to my contemplative mood. Maybe that will come through a bit in this post… I’ll let you all be the judges.

If you would like to pass on anything you think I might be interested in, post the link as a comment to this thread! I’m always looking for new things to explore. Note that comments on this site are moderated, especially if they contain links, so if it doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry!

Made Me Think

How to Design Your Ideal Life (from Think Simple Now). I just about skipped reading this post after skimming the first paragraph — it seemed like just another “resolutions are bad, make goals instead” piece. Boy, and I glad I didn’t. When I read this heading, it hit me like a tonne of bricks: Live By Design, Not By Default. Yes, that’s what I’d been writing about in my Choice series, but even now I feel as though even just reading those six words, I’m hitting on something really important. I’m going to make either a computer wallpaper or a poster (or both) with those words on it — remind me, and I’ll share it with you :)

The Single Secret to Making 2009 Your Best Year Ever (from Zen Habits). Yeah, I know. One of those titles that you kinda roll your eyes at, and think “whatever you say”. But trust me on this one; Leo Babauta really hit this one on the head: Stop waiting for happiness. Happiness is right here, right now. Let that one bounce around your noggin for a while, then go read Leo’s article. You can come back for the rest of the list later. It’s okay, I’ll wait.

Spirituality, Not Religion, Makes Kids Happy (from LiveScience). Okay, I have to admit that as a former religious studies student, the title does make my toes curl a bit (we generally hate the word “spirituality”). But if you get past the shuddering — and somewhat sensationalist headline — it’s a pretty interesting bit of writing. Some aspects are maybe unsurprising, but the relationship between spirituality and happiness (and not religious practice) was thought-provoking for me.

Oldies But Goodies

I encountered (and in a couple of cases, re-encountered) a couple of older articles this week. They’re still fantastic.

What If You Have Too Many Interests and Cannot Commit to Any of Them? (from Steve Pavlina). Any scanners and renaissance souls in the house? (Hint — if Pavlina’s title ressonates with you, you probably are one!) This one is for you. We can always use reminders that there is nothing wrong with having multiple interests, and that we do have options when it comes to pursuing them all. This article takes a bit of a different approach compared to — say — that of Margaret Lobenstein or Barbara Sher. Pavlina goes beyond saying “here’s how to handle all those multiple interests” to arguing that multiple interests is a powerful tool in the pursuit of personal growth. I think I’m inclined to agree.

Q&A with Lisa Diamond (from the Boston Globe). This interview from 2007 is really a brief introduction to research by Lisa Diamond (Ph. D. Assoc. Professor of Psychology, University of Utah), which led to her book Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire. (Note, I have not read the book, but am thinking I might track down a copy at the library).  The reason for the link, though, is not just for the interview itself — which is insightful — but as a suggestion that you Google some articles related to Diamond and the research which surprised even yourself. Or heck, just do what I’m going to, and see if you can find her book.

Catch It on Repeats

And finally, a big shout-out about the latest episode of NUMB3rs: Arrows of Time. I’m a big fan of the show any way, but this one was phenomenal in my opinion. Action, comedy, drama — yes, it had all of those. But it also is one of the few shows that I’ve seen on TV lately (if ever) that really dives into the heart of the huge role that religion can play on our lives. I’m also hugely appreciative of how the show, and this show in particular, took the risk of having one of its major characters investigate their own Jewish heritage and faith (even if they do insist on calling the synagogue a temple). Kudos for a fantastic episode; American viewers and those handy with proxies can watch it online at CBS if you didn’t already see it; the rest will have to wait for repeats or DVDs (legally, at least).

Interest, Excitement and Your Natural Stopping Point

As I was relecting the diagram showing the lifespan of my idea interest, it struck me that my “bail-out” points were located in what looks like strange places: at low points of interest. Wouldn’t it make more sense to bail-out when interest is high, rather than waiting for a crash of interest?

What I realized, though, is that I was falling into a trap: I was confusing interest with excitement.

Relating Interest and Excitement

Interest and excitement are closely related. The more interested we are in something, the more excitement we feel and the more energy we have to work on a project.

At the same time, I personally find that my interest level tends to be a bit more up-and-down than my excitement level. For example, I can remain excited about something in the general sense but not be interested in it “in the moment”. So in my experience, interest and excitement are related, but are not the same thing.

If we were to overlay my excitement levels onto the previous graph, it might look something like this (the red lines are the bail-out points from the previous diagram):


Levels of Interest and Excitement

Levels of Interest and Excitement

In the newly revised diagram, you can see that my excitement rises and falls with my interest, but it’s not quite as … tempermental. While my interest flares up and wanes occasionally, my excitement for a certain project follows a pretty standard trajectory. It goes up for a while, stabilizes, and then goes down for a while.

Bailout Blues

So going back to the original question, then, why do I tend to “bail-out” of projects when I do? When we looked only at interest, it seemed as though I would bail out whenever my interest level was low.

If that were the case, though, I’d find myself quitting before I even got started. And some of the bailout points wouldn’t really make sense. Take point #1 for example: at this point, my interest is still higher than it was when I got started. So clearly, I’m still interested in the idea. So why would I quit when my interest dropped just a little bit? Do I get bored that easily?

More clarity comes when we add excitement into the picture. The pattern that emerges is quite elegant when you think about it: bailouts appear most likely when excitement and interest are at widely different levels.

But consider this: when you lose interest in something, but are still excited by it,  you may well choose to return to it at a later point, or you may find your excitement disappears along with your interest. So we can’t ignore that excitement is affected by changes in interest, and vice versa.

Instead of looking at levels of excitement and interest, then, what happens when we look at how they trend in relation to each other. Taking my drawing above, we can look at my personal excitement and interest bailout points as follows:

  1. Excitement Rising, Interest Falling
  2. Excitement Holding, Interest Falling
  3. Excitement Falling, Interest Falling

Now a very clear pattern has emerged. I quit when my interest has fallen, regardless of what my excitement level is. But does this really make sense?

The Best Time to Quit

When we compare the bailout points, it seems silly to bail when there is still more interest and excitement yet to be had (point #1). At the same time, it’s really not very much fun to hang on and force yourself to do something that you’re neither excited about, nor interested in (point #3).

It would appear that the best time to quit something, then, is when your excitement is fairly static (or just starting to decline) but your interest is clearly falling. Otherwise, you risk just making yourself miserable.

But how do you know what that is? When is the best time to quit — how do you know when your has excitement peaked and your interest begun to wane? In other words, what is your natural stopping point?

One of the best ways to do this is to simply keep track of all the ideas you have (or projects you start). For each, note the following:

  • Project/Idea Description (1-2 sentences is fine).
  • Points at which you felt like bailing (whether you did or not), and for each point:
    • Interest level (rank, 1-10)
    • Excitement level at bailout (rank, 1-10)
    • What you were doing at the time?
  • When you finally do bail, do you feel as though you hung on too long?

Do this for a week or two as honestly as possible (ie. don’t continue doing something just because you think the numbers are telling you should, and likewise don’t quit just because you think the numbers are telling you to do so).

At the end of your logging period, go back and review your log. A good way to do this is to break your log into two pieces: one containing all the times you felt you hung on too long, and one for all the times that you didn’t.

  • For all the times when you felt as though you hung on too long, can you find an earlier bailout point where your excitement was high but your interest was dropping off (we’ll call this your “optimal bailout”)? If yes, what were you doing at that time?
  • For all the times when you felt as though you didn’t hang on too long, what were you doing at the time? (This is also an “optimal bailout”)

Now — and here’s the magic of the log — can you find a general theme among what you were doing at your optimal bailouts? For example, you might find that your optimal bailouts always occured when you had produced a working draft of an idea. Or perhaps it always occured when you had figured out how things worked. Maybe for you, it happens when you’ve released the final version of something (and really, really hope that you never have to look at it again!) Or maybe something else.

Your Personal Stopping Point

The key is that this general theme is your natural stopping point. It’s the point at which you have reached your maximum enjoyment (and probably your maximum effectiveness, too, since very few of us do our best work when we’re not enjoying it).

What’s really cool is that your natural stopping point (NSP) also shows one of your greatest strengths.

For example, if one of your strengths is finding connections between ideas, your NSP will likely occur shortly after you’ve made the connection. If your strength is seeing patterns, your NSP will happen once the patterns have become clear to you. If your strength is tying together all the loose ends, your NSP will be when something is wrapped up in a neat little package, all ready to go. And so on.

The critical thing to realize is that your stopping point may not be the same as everyone else’s. But that’s okay — don’t let anyone tell you it’s not! Each of us has our own strengths and our own abilities, and just because yours might not be the same as your neighbors doesn’t mean they’re any less valuable.

By the same token, your NSP may not be the same as everyone else’s — you may be “done” long before the product is shipped, for example. But that simply means that you’ve already given your best, and used your strengths. And that’s a good thing; something to be proud of.