Word of the year(s) 2021
OK, so this morning I was thinking that "production" might be the word of the year for me this year.
I'm aware that it is already March 2021 and by now, for the past couple of years, I've usually posted something to do with New Year's resolutions.
This year I haven't. Most of that is on purpose. Given everything that has happened over the past 12 months with the pandemic, social unrest, the US election and, for us living in Texas, the "Snowpocalypse" last month (that saw many lose power and water, and some to lose their life), it didn't seem like the right time.
I've had this reoccurring kind of realization over the past months that "everything seems old-fashioned" (which I'll talk more about in a future article). In brief, a lot of self-help and business content and communications seem way out of step with the common experience that we've all been through over the year. And we're not out of the woods yet, so to speak.
You might say that those communications have missed the zeitgeist of the times (the worst offenders continue to be clickbait and ads for products that seem way out of step with the priorities of many). It seemed inappropriate to dive into resolutions without at least trying to process what has happened. In my own way, I've started to do that processing by writing a commentary going through each chapter of The Good Life Book. That book was written at a time of personal and social crises, so it seemed like a good place to start to look at what just happened. You can step through the articles on the book's website or by jumping to the first article in the series HERE.
Anyway, I've realized that even at the worst of times, life goes on. You still have to take that next step in a very personal / true / authentic way to create your future. And in an sense we all have, I think, this pool of reflection, and desire for change given everything that has happened.
With all that as context. I've decided to get you thinking about the world of the year. The concept is simply to pick a word that resonates with where you are (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially etc), and where you want to be. The idea is that you pick the word, and display it prominently, and revisit it throughout the year to guide you in the right direction.
It seems to me that at the moment, such a simple, overarching, tool might even be of more use (as is the case with a vision statement) than getting down into details that will constantly change given all of the unknowns that remain for many of us.
I've decided to write this short article to talk about my word for the year this year, and recap the past couple of years.
My words for the year:
- 2021 - Production
- 2020 - Transformation
- 2019 - Simple
2021 - Production
The word "Production" has been speaking to me this year since it embodies, for me, a sense of action-oriented creativity.
For most of 2020 I'd been the primary carer in our household for our two young kids (currently 6 and 4), while my wife continued her corporate job via Zoom. I've been the cook, the homeschooler and the default chore-doer, while trying to continue to run my own projects and business in the background.
We've now finally gotten some help with the kids, so in January I decided to focus on music production (I actually first talked about that goal two years ago). Music was something, I'd decided, was the one thing that I really wanted to give myself the time to do, and I'd regret not doing, even if it didn't point straight towards money!
My plan was to turn some of my ideas not only just into demos (I'd already created quite a few of those), but into finished products that would be published and widely available (e.g on SoundCloud, Bandcamp and Spotify etc).
As many of you who follow my stuff know, I've been on a creative journey. Part of the early part of this journey has been about exploring and getting to know myself in the role of creative/artist, and also doing all the "first"/initial (basic) creative projects (music, video, writing etc).
Looking back, for that initial part, it is great to say "I've done a thing" as the expression goes. The thing might not be any good, but at least you've done it and that is a start. I advise people wanting to be (more) creative to just go ahead and do the thing as best you can at the time.
You put yourself out there in a way when you do a "thing", and yet you can (and should) just put a big disclaimer around the whole thing. By that I mean you can say "I'm just starting out, so don't be too harsh in your feedback, support my effort". You shouldn't be too harsh on yourself either when you start "doing things". Get some runs on the board first, start to accumulate "evidence" and a virtual folder of output that proves you can do stuff.
But then eventually you need to "turn pro" in your approach and your output if you want it to improve, and if you want people to remain engaged with it. This might come across as a slightly dry, academic concept, but it is really about the drive that comes from the fire that has hopefully been ignited in you. Nobody has to tell you to try to get better, because you want to, and you can start to be able to see the weaknesses in what you've produced in the past. You start to want to push the boundaries. That has been my experience anywway.
For me turning pro has involved trying to become more thoughtful about what I produce and how much I put into trying to plan and upgrade the quality of that. Creativity to finished product is a process and there are many many steps following the initial idea before it is ready to release.
For me, this also involves balancing quality even as I still try to push myself to experiment with what I do (e.g. to be more deeply true/honest, more ambitious), and how I do it (better technical skills, the right amount of time to allow outputs to develop and mature, and rest and to be revised before publishing).
So, production for me is about getting stuff out there while improving the quality (with the kind of broad based definition above). This is not just for music, but with the way I'm approaching everything I'm doing for work.
This approach to production actually involves putting yourself out all over again, since you're no longer just doing a thing as a novice, but you are now in the arena with all those producing words/music/video etc all around the world.
You have to try to put your all into each of your productions, so if they suck then you also have to own that and it can hurt.
But, you have to take that onboard and try to improve.
Of course, content can be technically brilliant and fall flat, or be naive but still move people - so I don't want to get too clinical on the technical side and lose sight of the goal to make people feel something (or know or do something, whatever the aim of the project is).
For me, production is this transition stage between amateur and professional.
In parallel with this, I'm seeing that being professional in what you know and how you do things also allows you to help other people with their stuff, for money!
This comment is in the context of my overall theme of helping you/me to be able to get paid for what we love doing. By turning pro you become more skilled, experienced and objective. You can earn money to keep your dream alive by helping others to achieve theirs, and hopefully there is some sort of synergy there too beyond the financial (e.g. in knowledge, contacts, equipment etc).
2020 - Transformation
Last year, my word of the year was Transformation (see Vimeo video HERE). I really wanted to look more at the big picture of my life and work, and particularly to prioritize important parts of life that were in danger of falling by the wayside.
For example, this included focus areas like health, investing in my kids, and spending real time on creative projects that weren't directly related to my business and needing to turn into a profit in the short term. That transformation video was posted in January when few of us knew what was just around corner. In the end and in brief, I did get to focus on health and kids and creativity, but not in the way I'd originally thought.
In reaction to health (e.g. weight) actually going in the wrong direction as 2020 went on, I ended up experimenting successfully with intermittent fasting in the last months of the year. As with anything, the ultimate test is sustainability, and I've got more work to do there until new habits and processes are fully embedded, but I feel that I've somewhat turned the corner in a positive way there and have got more tools to manage my health.
Like many of you, I became a full time schoolteacher last year. The original context of my goal around kids was that I realized that trying to run a startup business in the past years has become an obsession, and that a startup as much or even more than a corporate job can become all-encompassing.
I had to remind myself to walk the talk of The Good Life Book and focus on my kids' development since this was important, and risked falling through the cracks.
It would be easy to just say that the experience of last year convinced me that I'm not a great schoolteacher of young kids and to brush off the whole experience.
Firstly you do what you can even if it is not perfect, that is what we all did. But, even with the kids back in school last year, there were and are gaps requiring more work at home (e.g. reading and writing), so we as parents have more to do to address that. I appreciate the time with the kids last year, and it also made me recognize how much focused time they still need. It is all relative, prior to 2020 I'd been giving myself a pat on the back for being an involved "modern" Dad, whereas I don't really think I knew what I didn't know, as the expression goes. I hadn't dived into the kids development deeply enough to know that more work needed to be done beyond school.
Last year I'd intended to get a draft of my planned Texas road movie script (and songs) done. It just didn't happen in any kind of systematic way. I did think about the project but didn't have blocks of time to allocate to it, and didn't get through the prep work I'd planned to do to get the story structure right.
In an unexpected turn of events, the host (DJ Nik Fish) of a public radio show I was involved with in the early 1990's reached out to ask if I'd be interested in talking about self-care on a Facebook livestreaming revival of the show. Being involved in the show got me to revive my alter-ego from those times DJ Brett Beetroot and it got me thinking a lot more about music and performance, which I've carried forward to this year. Also I began to look for ways to incorporate music into my videos and series for Total Life Complete e.g. Mezcal. I'm really interested in seeing where this music/video/film overlap goes in the future (e.g. film scoring).
2019 - Simple
As I recall now, the context of having "Simple" as the word of the year in 2019, was about focus, and avoiding overthinking. Less often is more. I'd felt like I run so many experiments to do with my business, and was a bit "all over the place" not only in work but in the messaging/marketing I was putting out to the world.
One part of being "all over the place" was trying to reconcile various identities (e.g. entrepreneur, artist, dad), and also to separate myself from my business.
At times I've felt that Total Life Complete and I are virtually indistinguishable.
There is a "playing with fire" or "walking a tightrope" element to trying to incorporate your passions into a business. In a sense, incorporating passions is a great source of motivation, but it can also be a huge distraction too. It can make it hard to be objective about the business and to manage scope and impact of what you are trying to do for clients/the tribe you are serving.
In terms of alignment, one of the outcomes of "simple' was "Complete" a video series of my journey. And the video series Complete led on to the crystallization of the Complete philosophy (video link) later that year, including a new tagline "Live on a higher and deeper level". Finally, this was a simple encapsulation both of what I wanted to achieve, and what I was helping my clients / tribe to achieve.
So, this look back actually seems to support, for me, that there is value in using the word of the year approach. Even if things don't go exactly the direction that you planned.
As an approach to writing this article, I've erred on the side of sharing more context in this my personal blog rather than since I think that might be at least as useful as what the article is "about", so I apologize if this article turned out to be more wordy for you than you feel it should be, perhaps others found different things that were valuable to them?