Time to make the donuts
Sharpen your skills. Ship your work. Turn pro.
That's what we're doing here on Pacing Thing, the tiny social network where we keep each other going on our independent projects.
...become a painter, entrepreneur or a therapist. Become a mechanic or learn to make clothing. Become a master craftsperson or just add something new to your skill stack.
Finish your book or your invention.
Offer your work to the world. If the world doesn't need it, make it better, make it more helpful.
Then, make a living.
Easier said than done.
We can spend years on the Okay Plateau, never really improving our skills or work all that much. We look back and see we haven't been growing. We feel dead.
Or... we end up getting very skilled, but we never get the guts to put our work out there. We don't get feedback from the audience we wish to serve. We don't make sales. We settle for pretending that some day we will get something going.
There is never enough time. It is never the right time.
Our time gets devoured by things that feel urgent in the moment. Maybe later we will have time.
We will not have time later.
The most important things don't often feel urgent in any given moment. They're rarely scheduled or have deadlines. So they are put off. We risk waking up ten years from now wondering what would have happened if we would have tried.
We risk taking our dreams with us to the grave.
On Pacing Thing, we don't let this happen.
We follow a very simple system with only one requirement. This one requirement is the magic: You must post about what you did on your project today. We, your new colleagues, have our own projects too so you can see what we did. We're following along with your progress and you follow ours. And here's the trick: The system automatically removes members who do not report.
We must show up for one another, not a million times a day like most social platforms, but once a day like good jogging partners.
We're all doing this. We're all showing up. And actually it's fun.
A group for every stage
- Skill development
The life-blood of meaningful contribution to our world. If you need deliberate practice and learning...
Join "Sharpen the Saw".
- Do the work
Start and finish your project.
Join "Make the Donuts".
Ship your work. Run market tests. Get feedback. Make sales.
(...or see the full catalog)
Demand a deadline
For anything important in our lives, we must demand a deadline. Notice how university students stay up all night... just for learning. This is the magic of deadlines.
Pacing Thing is a daily practice
Do a little or a lot, it's your choice, but do something every day.
Doing something each day puts you on The Path. It brings your closer to your goals of being independent, having a lot of choice in the kinds of work you do, and becoming a helpful, interesting contributor to your world.
Day-by-day, your work starts to compound on itself
New skills combine with what you already know in unique and powerful ways. Your audience is finally interacting with your work because you're actually showing your work. With this feedback, you can hone your craft even more. You're becoming so good they can't ignore you. You're making sales. You're seeing that people are appreciating what you're bringing to the table.
Obviously this is not easy and most people won't do it
It is not easy to show up daily, so you're going to need a pretty darn good reason to do so. Whether it's two minutes or two hours, most people decide they are too busy or that they don't care. And why should they anyway? Is this not sounding like a productivity cult brainwashed by capitalism?
Maybe. And this may be a fine conclusion for some, but if you are still reading, you may be a seeker.
The Seeker's Search for Meaning
The seekers have a problem. There is no obvious meaning or purpose to anything. Seekers have been bumping into this problem for thousands of years, from a hillside in Tibet to a drive thru in French Lick, Indiana.
We sometimes say we want to know the meaning of life, but what we really want is meaning *in* life.
We all know this feeling of meaning. It is the desire of our hearts.
When do we get rewarded with this feeling?
We feel meaning when we take our place in the entirety of the human lineage.
This means we are living in alignment with our deepest programming, the stuff we inherited from our ancestry. We are recipients of genes and memes from our relatives, all the way back to the African veldt, our family members who birthed children in long grass and hunted game with spears.
Those people worked together. They refined skills. They learned together. They survived when they made the right decisions about where to put energy and who to bond with. The ones who survived are our ancestors. Our bodies and brains contain inhereted survival know-how.
We have the impulse to do well as individuals, of course. Is it bad that we aren't selfless like ants? It's not bad or good. A large amount of "looking after Number One" has been important for our group's survival, apparently. But, we also have the instinct to create families, provide for our families, create and foster community and contribute to our worlds. All of these things give us a sense of meaning. When we do these things, we are behaving in a way that is in alignment with our deep intelligence, beyond our thinking minds and beyond the individual organism.
"It is better to give than to receive". That is a profoundly important insight about our psychology.
The people we admire most take care of their own affairs... and then turn their attention to helping others.
Some helping is less obviously helpful
We feel meaning when we develop skills, even skills that may not be obviously useful to our world. There is something in us that tells us to keep learning. This may be important to the survival of our communities, cultures and species. Our biological and cultural reward systems make sure we continue to explore.
We feel meaning when we make progress. Anyone who has ever done the dishes or fixed a flat tire knows this.
Obsession with progress is deadening
But it can't be The Way to run around like headless chickens, desperate to earn our keep or desperate to matter. All the progress in the world is not worth suffering through this Quiet Panic. The Quiet Panic is a symptom of a disease upon our culture.
The Quiet Panic is not The Way. We know this because it does not lead to feelings of meaning. It makes us feel deadness.
The opposite of *meaning* is *deadness*
Meaning is the signal we are on the right path. The opposite signal is deadness.
When we are stagnant, when we have too much self-focus, when we aren't becoming something, we feel dead. But we also feel dead when try too hard to maximize potential or earn our keep. This is why there is life to be experienced in meditation practices where the goal is to do nothing except be.
Becoming the wise elder
In one sentence, the directive that keeps us on the meaningful path is the following: Behave in a way that will eventually make you a wise elder.
This is not some kind of deferred life plan where we only get the good stuff later. It's by being on this path that we get rewarded. It brings many of our inner forces into alignment.
The wise elder has resolved many of his or her inner conflicts.
The wise elders have experienced many things. They have made many mistakes. They have grown, constantly. They have made things happen. They become vital in their communities, usually in their own little way, but it takes a village. They now know how to guide younger people who will now be the ones to make things happen. They know how to guide because they have been there.
They have been explorers, in their own way. They have been craftspeople, learning deeply. They have made many mistakes in life. They have learned from them.
And now, they live with a post-adventure ease, at peace with themselves. It is a peace that is only possible by first having their adventure.
They are calm, with a wealth of wisdom. When they hold court in the park, young seekers come to learn about life, love, business, engineering, war, peace, problem solving and relationships.
This is a north star towards which to orient your life.
Getting there depends on your daily choices, like today, right now as you read this.
You must develop skills and do your work in the real world. You must engage in interesting projects.
The pay-off is not just down the road. The pay-off is now because it's by being on the path that you feel most alive.
You are on the path
Tonight, you can go to bed knowing that no matter what else happened, you were on the path. And you are doing it among friends, here on Pacing Thing.
It starts right now when you sign up for a 21-day session of one of our groups. It's free. Your choices:
- Sharpen the Saw – deliberate practice / skill development
- Make the Donuts – start and finish you project
- Marketing – offer your work to the world
It is a door to a meaningful life. But you must walk through.
We've been doing this together for three years so far and it really works. We literally sprint to make our deadline, when we manage our time poorly. Sometimes we find ourselves pulling our cars onto the shoulder to quickly do our homework on the dashboard. People have brought their skills from so-so to something they can charge money for.
Most importantly, it has formed bonds between people.
Companions for the journey
Most of your friends are not interested in this. They have other priorities or approaches to life and that's fine. But, going it alone doesn't often work and it's not often pleasant. It helps to have some companions for the journey.
We'd love to have you, even just to give it a try for a day or two. That's long enough to see if it works for you.
* * *
Sharpen the Saw
Develop the skills to pay the bills
Time commitment: 2 minutes per day for 21 days. You are allowed to miss 6 days.
Join this group if you know that you need to further develop your skills in an intentional way. Skill development is the bread-and-butter of independence and choice in the kinds of work we do.
Deeper learning is also how we reignite our interest in our current work.
Pick a skill you want to hone. It can be any skill which will help you do what you need to do in the world or simply something you would enjoy learning (this is how we cultivate curiosity, which is essential to life).
Some of us are working through textbooks. Some of us are doing our scales and arpeggios. Some of us are doing online courses. Some of us are working with a coach.
This is the group for deliberate practice:
- You won't be playing softball in the beer league where you get seven at-bats per game, you'll be at the batting cage where you get seven at-bats per minute.
- You won't be doodling in the style you always do, you'll be learning fundamentals or new techniques.
- You won't be doing your woodworking using the dado splints you always use, you'll be exploring joinery systems you don't already know how to do.
It really adds up over time.
Every day ends with a "win" when you do a little skill development, especially when you realize that almost no one does serious skill development outside of school... and for most people, school was a long time ago.Learn more
* * *
Make the Donuts
Start and finish your project
Time commitment: 2 minutes per day for 21 days. You are allowed to miss 6 days.
Join this group if:
- You have a project that's been sitting on the shelf for too long that you finally want to do.
- You need to get your thesis done.
- You make a lot of excuses which you aren't buying anymore
- You've been telling people you are a writer and yet you aren't doing much writing.
Every day, post to this group and tell us what you did to get closer to finishing your project.Learn more
* * *
Do market tests, get feedback, spread the word, interact with the world
Time commitment: 21 days, any amount of time per day. You are allowed to miss 6 days.
Join this group if:
- You have a project idea you want to do market tests for (We can help if you don't know how!)
- You want to try your hand at a side-hustle... see if you can rustle up some business
- You want to see if you can get a better job
- You want to see if you can get more clients or sales for an existing project
Every day do something to put yourself or your product out there.
- Apply for a job
- Share your work
- Post a blog
- Phone a prospective customer
- Put up a poster on a lamp post
- Get feedback
- Make a shelf out of wood and ask if anyone wants to buy it
- Email a thing you made to 10 people who might like it. Say “here, I made this”. Then ask them to forward it to anyone they think might like it. If it doesn't spread, try a different sort of 10 people, or make a different thing. Keep doing this until you have a winner.
- Draw or paint a picture of a classic GMC motorhome in a style you can do quickly. Post it to the Facebook Group for owners of classic GMC motorhomes. Ask if anyone wants to pay you $100 to make a portrait of their GMC motorhome.
Report the results of your marketing experiments to the group. The idea is to have your project interacting with the real world in some way that could either lead to more traction or learning something about the market which you wish to serve.
By the way, here is what a GMC motorhome looks like. It's one of the greatest RVs in history and has many devoted fans: