How I decide where to focus my energy


Melissa’s in China, which means I have to wake up at four in the morning to talk, which means we have no phone calls, and her emails are unsatisfyingly delayed.

I miss her. She is with Steven, who I think is buying her a ring.

How I decide where to focus my energy

Going to China with Steven was a good idea because men love being in a foreign country with a woman who can speak the language. It’s similar to how men enjoy when a girl wears a wig or even a new necklace to have sex—they can pretend they are with someone new.  (I read this in Cosmo, which is great for women with Asperger’s because it’s a rule book for dealing with men.)

So Melissa is going to get a ring soon, which is good because it’s a lot of work to find a guy to marry. When she’s not in China, I talk to Melissa on the phone five times a day, which is good for helping her find the right guy, because if you have a really good friend then you put less pressure on the other parts of your life to be completely fulfilling – like a mate or a job.

In fact, I think this is the problem with most peoples’ jobs. Do you know what post I link to more than any other post? The post about how your job cannot make a fulfilling life. This one.

I know I am the last person in America to see Season One of Weeds, but that’s what I’m watching right now. And actually maybe this post will be really useful to everyone because I tried to Google reviews of Season One that do not spoil the rest of the seasons, and it was pretty hard.

Wait. Sidetrack for a moment. I am going to say this because so often someone writes in the comments section that the post is not organized. But I want you to know that this post is like a messy desk—it looks messy to you, but I know exactly where everything is when I need it.

And I’m telling you I’m not disorganized but you are not believing me, probably, which is the true problem with a messy desk. You have to believe it when research tells you how other people perceive you. This goes for women wearing makeup to work, too. Just do it. Men take you more seriously if you wear makeup. The research doesn’t lie.

So back to the Google searching. Melissa is always telling me that I don’t need to have another startup idea. She is always telling me that I’m sitting on a startup and I’m not focusing on it. My blog. My blog is a publishing startup. I could be publishing books. I could be publishing other peoples’ books. In fact it’s insane that this paragraph is not full of a million links to stuff I’m selling you. I should write a book about Weeds, since I am now going to rank high in search results for season one reviews of Weeds.

When it turned out that my goat cheese business idea had terrible profit margins and a questionable ability to reach hockey-stick growth, I got upset. I have been researching and scheming about goat cheese, and then online food, and then online shopping models, for three years. But the idea isn’t going to work. Not for me. It might work for you, maybe. (Email me if you want help doing that business. You can have the idea.)

So I was moping and I was sending Melissa insane emails, like when I told her that I am infatuated with relational art and I need someone to talk to about it. I told her that I feel like Kurt Perschke’s red ball.

And I told her that I want to put myself in the weird places and disrupt peoples’ thinking the way art can.

I told her maybe I need to buy a new, great camera. Did you know her camera is as big as her head? I mean, she’s small. But still. Maybe my blog would be better if I had a camera as big as my head.

But Melissa said no to the camera. She said I have to think of my blog as a startup and I already have great photos with my iPhone and I should not distract myself with thinking I need better photos.

That’s what people do when they have a startup idea. Ben Casnocha‘s book My Startup Life has a chapter about how if you’re not working on stuff that really makes a difference, then you are not doing anything. Most people with a new startup do stuff like decide they need a new camera for the business, then distract themselves saving for the camera and researching it, then learning how to use it, and they avoid getting the startup done.

Ben, by the way, doesn’t want me to write about his old book. He wants me to write about his new book. The Start-up of You, which I like as well, (and not just because his publishing career documents the AP Style Guide’s treatment of the word startup). The book shows that entrepreneurship is really about taking control of your life, and you don’t need a big startup to be an entrepreneur — you need personal responsibility and intellectual exploration. It’s a great book to take the pressure off everyone who thinks they should do a startup but never will.

It’s hard for me to admit that I’m taking advice from a twenty-five-year-old who talks to me mostly about sex. (Ben’s latest question to me was “What do you think of monogamy?” which I mention only because it relates back to the part of this post about putting on a new necklace, and now you will think I’m juggling lots of topics in this post with amazing control instead of being buried in lots of topics.)

But Ben’s advice about starting a company is good: Stay focused on what you have that is going well and execute on that, every single day.

Which is why I’m not buying the new camera. You cannot have a solid career if you can’t take advice that you don’t want to hear. The advice you hate is probably the most valuable.

So I launched a new design for the blog. There’s a new homepage that matches the new sections: the blog, homeschooling, coaching, and mailbag. I hope you find new stuff to read that you haven’t read before. I hope you enjoy it so much that it’s like I got into bed wearing a new necklace.

And I’m taking pictures with just my iPhone. I think I’ll put one right here. To reaffirm that the photos are fine and you will like them.

But still, take a look at the photos at the top, from Melissa’s billion-dollar camera. There is definitely a difference.

Now back to Weeds. See, I didn’t forget. Just moving the piles around in the desk that is my brain.

The main character in Weeds is a mom whose husband died unexpectedly and left no money to support their upper-middle-class lifestyle, so she starts selling pot. And then she gets really good. She is actually, by the end of season one, building a really good business. And, of course, it’s so much easier for her to focus on that than on the problems of raising two teenage boys who just lost their dad.

I love this woman. When she opens a bakery to launder her drug money, I get excited for her that she has another business, and I find myself thinking that I should open a bakery. It would be great in the little town near our farm because people here still think it’s fine to gorge on carbs.

My point is that it’s so much easier for me to think of business ideas and distract myself with what could be next than to deal with what I have right here. If I would just focus, I could be writing on this blog three times a week. I’ve done it before, if you can believe it.

So I miss Melissa. Because I want to talk to her about how I am going to focus. I think she’s right that my business should be my blog. I think she’s right that I shouldn’t buy a new camera. When you have a friend who is right that often, you want her around to hear everything you think.

You don’t need a huge grand startup to make your life fun and interesting. You just need to have a challenging goal that you are trying to reach, each day. You need to be able to make money doing it: that is what a good job is.

A good life is something else. It’s the stuff that isn’t your job. Like, me helping Melissa to make sure she gets a ring before she goes on any more trips that look too much like a honeymoon. Or the woman in Weeds turning off her cell phone and dealing with her kids before her life crashes, no matter how good her business is. Your job doesn’t love you. Your friends do.


89 replies
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  1. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    Melissa’s boyfriend is hot.

    Cosmo will ruin a woman’s sense of self, I wouldn’t recommend it.

    Love the new look of the blog! Easy to navigate.

  2. Brent
    Brent says:

    Melissa speaks Chinese? How and why did she learn it? I’m especially curious because I’m working in China and learning the language as well.

  3. tatiana
    tatiana says:

    I really love the new blog design. It’s great. It’s also awesome about Melissa being in China with her BF. So fascinating.

    This post was pretty great because it’s something that I’ve had to deal with recently. I want to start my own freelancing or side-business but am struggling on what to focus on. And your post highlighted when I needed to hear: that I should look at what I have now instead of being distracted by mindless things.

    Like, I have a camera too, but it didn’t cost me $2K. My friend, who is a photographer by trade, says it has less to do with equipment and more to do with skill, practice and knowing how to use a camera. Loads of people buy thousand dollar cameras just to take nice photos of their kids sitting around. But they’re such nice photos; and everyone who wants to do photography on a semi-pro level wants to own a $2K camera. But I don’t have $2K for a camera, so I need to learn to use what I’ve got. And I like this analogy because it reminds me of this feeling that we currently have isn’t enough and that we often need something bigger (and often times more expensive) in order to get to the place that other people have gotten.

  4. Vicky
    Vicky says:

    Too bad the billion dollar camera’s pics are ruined by the lousy settings you have on your new blog to display images.

  5. BB
    BB says:

    Cosmo is NOT a guide for how to deal with men. The advice is often demeaning of women and it over-sexualizes them. It is very focused on appearance and not on substantive suggestions or ideas.

    I would not want people on the spectrum to get the wrong idea from this post. I hope that advice was meant to be sarcastic. Note that people with autism spectrum disorders often have trouble with sarcasm so I am clarifying here.

  6. Shirley Trevor
    Shirley Trevor says:

    I love the way you write. I bounce around topic wise in conversations and some people can’t follow me. But my daughter knows exactly what I mean even when everyone else is lost.

    There is a richness to those moments I think.

  7. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    Wow. I just don’t know which angle to comment on. How about this… I just found a great article comparing iPhone 4S camera to other cameras and phones. I was curious because I just went to NYC and thought my iPhone pictures were really fantastic. — also, you are sitting on a land mine. I need to go back and re-read this post and get back to whatever the subject was. Messy desks? Mine is tricky clean (meaning stashed piles). But there are a lot of clues to me lurking about for the attentive. I do give it all away. Or were you talking about the orderliness to your writing and thinking. An order that maybe others can’t perceive but you know is there, which honestly, probably is all that matters. We have to trust your journey.

  8. Heroine Worshiper
    Heroine Worshiper says:

    Positive psychology is unbearable. She’s going to get divorced & become another 35 year old marrying a guy 20 years older than her. That’s a better blog post.

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