It is hard to believe that 2022 is nearly over, but here we are with the last Groundhog Day Resolutions Report of the year! This one covers just the last two weeks, as I had posted the November report quite late in the darkest hour of the 30th. Rather than rush it out like I usually do, I took the time to really get to the roots of my ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder experience so I could relate them to productivity. I was feeling pretty terrible about my seeming lack of progress over the past ten years. I think I was able to communicate the gist of what I was thinking, but after having had a couple weeks to think about it I think I can do a better job of connecting the dots.
So let's start with a synopsis of the key findings in the November report!
Accepting Specific Impairments and Proposing Mitigations
Last month I acknowledged that I DO have traits associated with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1 (formerly called Asperger's Syndrome), and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I had not been sure about the diagnoses until I reverse-engineered the clinical symptoms (as described by outside observers) into a more nuanced understanding based on the "lived experiences" reported by people on the neurodivergent spectrum, then cross-referencing that with what I knew about myself. This led to declaring and then accepting I have two major impairments that have made it difficult for me to achieve my goals:
I have difficulty starting projects because of a combination of executive dysfuction (ADHD) and the atypical way I experience the world (ASD). I became depressed when I found that my ADHD medical practitioner (a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner) really had no idea what I was experiencing; her interpretation that I was either "thinking in black and white terms" or "wrapped up in details that other people ignore without any problem". She was very kind and supportive throughout the 10 or so followups with the ADHD medication I had tried, but ironically the most important takeaway was that clinicians can't accurately diagnose root causes because they are trained to prescribe treatment based on observed pattern.With that insight, I started to construct my own model of how my ADHD and ASD traits uniquely expressed themselves.
I felt I had difficulty relating intellectually with other people because I think very differently; this was apparent from my experience with the nurse practioner who is as "normal" as they come. The way I relate to the world is alien to neurotypical people. I have to use conceptual models to understand the world before I can engage with it, and every social interaction I do is handled by a simulation in my head so I know what to do. I learn by seeking uncovering the interaction between the systems that I've modeled, and I think scares normal ("neurotypical") people away because of the intensity. It is quite natural to me and I didn't think this was weird until I realized that yeah...maybe this isn't "normal". And it probably explained the growing feeling of disconnection with humanity as I came to believe that I generally was not a fit in most social institutions.
I am highly values-driven, believing in authentic presentation of my thoughts and feelings to the world. I have a weird principle that I must face my emotions, fears, and inconvenient truth as directly as I am capable of if I want to feel the way I want to feel. I employ my powers of reason in service to emotion and am alway highly aware of where I stand. The intensity with which I act in this way comes across as being either (1) scarily observant and/or (2) highly judgemental, and this is offputting to a lot of people.
My ability to initiate and perform tasks is driven by emotion and a sense of mission, not logic or reason. Emotion is what provides purpose. Rational thought supports Emotion in the pursuit of fulfilling the mission.
The main failure of prior systems was that they relied on maintaing some level of intrinsic motivation and willpower to push through the "hard stuff". By recognizing that I have ADHD and ASD, I also acknowledge that intrinsic motivation and normal means of motivating myself just do not work with my brain. It is time to try something new.
At the end of the report, I made a list of operating rules to address my three personal realities:
Don't work alone, ever because I need other bodies in the room engaged in the same project to feel the electricity of shared mission with like-minded people. This addresses executive dysfunction and the common need to have external help to stay focused. The combination of having the energy from working with like minded people and constant reminder that we're doing something together gives me an immediate reward when I apply myself toward our shared goal.
Apply autistic masking strats as more than the means to 'fit in' with other groups. Instead, use them to guide others to feel comfortable so I can also gain benefit for myself. I can be the host of any conversation and steer it to mutual benefit. As someone on the Autistic spectrum that sees the world as a bunch of interconnecting mental models regarding human behavior, I have the capacity to do this. I just need to assert myself gently so I don't scare people away as I have in the past.
Think of myself first as a writer that just happens to be a graphic designer and programmer of interactive software. Writing is my first love, and it is time to return it to the center of my attention. It's the primary way I make sense and distill my world observations into concise mental models that fuel my engineering imagination. I can think of the process as writing what I live and living what I write as my decades-long book project, and I've written literal millions of words since starting GHDR.
Always make time to refine and define my personal mission as this is what gives me purpose, motivation, and a reason to connect to people so I don't have to work alone. This is a continual writing process that I'd thought of just the prep work for defining "strategy" and "goals" in a measurable way like one is "supposed to". However, it's more than that for me; I have a compulsion to "solve this mystery" because it's related a lot of things that I think are ultimately good. It is the reason to do anything at all, in the grand scheme of things.
Since figuring all that out I felt like I'd had a major epiphany. After I have such realizations, I am always suspicious that I may be blowing smoke up my own skirt. This is where a lot of ideas tend to fail. For my, a great idea is like making a promise. Implementing that idea is analagous to keeping my wordPerhaps I take this too seriously, but I suffer emotionally when I make a promise and can not follow through even if I don't want to do it and it's me promising myself. This is a state of mind I try to avoid by making very few promises or commitments (including meetings) because my mind can not let go of the thought I have to keep my promise! I have to keep my promise!
So let's do a gut check:
I still have to do the HARD stuff like shipping new products and learning to code unique apps while continually publishing original content across social media channels. This is challenging by itself, but I also have to pay attention to maintaining my energy levels and health. ADHD folks like me benefit from rigorous self-scheduling and restraint to keep the brain working at a useful level, and of course this is exactly what we are BAD at (hence the need for external anchors). Additionally, ASD folks like me like order and consistency, and as a person with many conceptual models related to aesthetics and excellence it is incredibly frustrating to hinteractive with illogical, inconsistent, and incoherent world.I don't have the "jump to conclusion" circuitry that most people have, and I also don't do well with blindly following recipes or memorizing responses. I like things to be very explicit and accurate. This is not a failure of my intelligence; it is a failure to gracefully adapt to the sloppy corner cutting of real world systems that we use every day. It drives me crazy. I like meticulous, well-ordered information in accessible intelligently-designed systems. Recognizing this is actually key to what ability I have to function in society, so now I take the time to build conceptual models for everything myself based on extrapolations and theories I can base on observation. It's fun! .
There are a few outstanding conceptual tasks that I'd like to resolve:
Can I write a comprehensive personal mission statement? This will be helpful for maintaining the "big picture" that gives purpose to every action I'm taking. It's similar in philosophy to the Concrete Goals Tracker in how it has a singular focus (freelancers need to bring in the bucks) but multiple kinds of tasks that help bring in the contracts.
What kind of writer am I? This might be less important in the "doing things" sense, but I would still like to have a way of describing what I do in a relatable way to every people I might meet on the street. I have a compulsion to accurately and concisely describe what I know, and just saying I'm a "writer" or "interactive developer" or even "investigative designer" doesn't really ring right. I could possibly just say "I write about how I'm building a community of blah blah" based on the mission statement. There is also the desire to pay homage to my English teachers Mr. Brown, Ms. Kuster, Mrs. Hull, and Mr. Driskill who encouraged me to write and improve.
What happened to Strategic Horizons and The Public Square? I have a lot of concepts that are all related to the implementation of the community that will provide those people I will work with (remember, I can't work alone). This community is the very embodiment of the personal mission! I have to address this at some point.
In the meantime, I have a few current projects to keep me busy:
- Update of the ETP 365 Day Almanac
- Update of the Compact Calendar 2023-2024
- Move Living Room Office into basement to spread out
- Return of the Living Room Cafe
- Move wardrobe out of guest bedroom into master bed
- Get rid of as much stuff as possible
- Find a new CPA
- Find a new ADHD practice
- Find a lawyer to handle business/trademarks
To the end of this list I can tack on the following:
- Personal Mission Statement
- What Kind of Writer Am I?
- Strategic Horizons, The Public Square, Etc.
These will be all scheduled using two-slot aux and executed with two-by-two. I also have modified my continuity journal to move the "thinking" part into Whimsical, which has recently added some nice composite document support that works with their excellent graphics wireframing system. It has both strong text support (markdown in text blocks) and decent object positioning without being overly complicated. Being able to concept ideas in 2D with a real type-supported information hierarchy is very nice. I used to do this in InDesign, but Whimsical is way better in speed of execution and its ability to share.
There were not many new journal posts written in the past two weeks, but there were several new tropes and memos added to the digital garden. Here's the list of them to just give you an idea of what was on my mind:
- memo: Automating InDesign
- memo: MacOS App Development
- trope: Intentfulness
- trope: Operational Experiments
- sri: "Personal Mission"
- sri: "I am Writer" notes
- sri: Favorite Movies
- sri: On Relatability
- sri: Impairment
- exemplar: Zef Hemmel
- exemplar: Real Genius
Stuff I Bought
It's also fun to see what kind of stuff I bought this past month.
- Mike Montiero's You're My Favorite Client is the companion to Design is a Job to help clients understand how to use design services.
- John Ballaentree's The Tarot Book is a thoughtful guide interpreting Tarot cards. I chatted with John years ago and I was really impressed by the integrity of his reasoned-yet-empathetic process.
- Eugene S. Gerguson's Engineering and the Mind's Eye is an extended essay on the role of intuition and non-verbal intelligence in good engineering.
- The Great Mental Models: Volume 1 from Farnum Street is a collection foundational framing ideas that help you think. There are two other volumes, and you can read all of them for free in web format at the link.
- QSL? (Do You Confirm Receipt of My Transmission?) from Standards Manual is a gorgeous coffee table book of the informal graphic design used by HAM radio operators over the years.
- Blu-ray Real Genius (1985) is one of my favorite movies about nerdity, friendship, and moral imperatives.
- Blu-ray Roxanne (1987) is a retelling of Cyranno de Bergerac from Steve Martin, in his first role that broke away from his previouis The Jerk style of comedy movie.
LIVING ROOM ACQUISITIONS
- The Vornado Variable Speed Mini Fan is a small fan to help move air around my living room for greater heating/cooling efficiency.
- A full length floor mirror so I can see what my various witchy outfits look like (and take selfies)
- An Asus ProArt 1920x1200 monitor used in portrait mode; the extra 120 pixels of width makes a difference!
- Wooden 8.5x11 paper storage drawers so I can keep blank paper near me, yet tucked away until I need it.
- EzPB Natural Peanut Butter Stirrer is a simple tool for mixing natural peanut butter with greater ease.
- 12oz microwaveable/freezeable meal prep containers for storing smaller batches of frozen leftovers.
- (6) Stainless Steel Multi-Measuring Cups with sub-markers. They nest and take up far less room than my other measuring cups.
- Lee Valley Glass Mini-Measure for mixing small quanties of different liquids together in the same cup, dirtying fewer measuring spoons.
I'm in the process of distilling notes for the entire year so I can see how the Groundhog Day Resolutions year went overall. Again, it's been a year of some process improvements but I did not build significant new production capacity.
However, I feel great that this year's crop of insights and epiphanies continues to refine my sense of mission purpose. I've decided that it is actually important. And I was able to get through the year despite severe bouts of depression, stress from project work, a few moments of elation, and crushing gender dysphoria. I didn't shy away from writing about them, and as a result I learned from each experience and am a little bit stronger than before.
That said, I think the hard part will be working under the new proposed constraints. In particular the never work alone, ever constraint is going to require a lot of thought in how to involve other people directly in my day-to-day work in a way that is of mutual benefit. I have the DS|Cafe Coworking Discord to work with and its mission is part of my overall strategy. Or rather, I should say my strategy is an offshoot of the DS|CAFE, which itself was an outgrowth of my explore-learn-build-share and tribal proclivities.
I think this report is the outline for GHDR 2023 in terms of outlining the strategy.
As I mentioned before, I'll do a complete year-end wrapup sometime before February 2, 2023. If you'd like to discuss anything that I've talked about, come find me on Discord in the DS|CAFE and DM me. Better yet, say hi in the main #chat room and join in the collaborative spirit of working together! We're still very small despite being around since 2016, but I think we've made is an interesting place. Thanks for following along, and may you all have a wonderful holiday season if I don't see you before next year! 😉
INDEX of GHDR 2022 POSTS
Kickoff - Defining the goals for 2022.
Focus Level Up! - Initial goals cleared. Added "daily making" criteria.
Working through the List - Progress.
Much Mental Processing - Thinking through mental health issues.
Too Much Work - Burned out on work. No report.
Back to Meeee! - Work commitments ending, looking forward to focus on my own work.
Setting Strategic Horizons - Need for "singular focus" stronger than ever. Hypothesizing goal-less strategic planning strategy based on structured procrastination.
Progress in Four Phases - Warming up to meet my strategic horizon goals took time, but the systems of the past are proving useful in the present!
Fighting the System, Letting it Be - Limited progress on the big yucky goals that must be done, reflections on the challenges, and a reminder maybe that I should just let things be beautiful.
Battling Impairment, Finding Heart - Addresses long-standing mental impairments as "personal fact" that GHDR does not directly address.
A New Roadmap - The key insights about ADHD, ASD, and Personal Mission summarized.