The Jewish Fisherman

29 11 2012

Are you familiar with the parable of The Mexican Fisherman?  It’s really quite a wonderful story, and one that I recommend you check out (perhaps prior to reading the rest of this post).

Over the past two months, my new project Jewrotica has taken up more and more of my time.  I have found myself spending whole days in front of the computer fielding e-mails and assorted project matters – something that is neither fun nor healthy.  Friends have asked me:  “Is the project fun?”  The answer is: “Sometimes, yes”.  Others have asked:  “Are you passionate about Jewrotica?”  Again, the answer is: “Sometimes, yes”.

I was and am certainly passionate enough about Jewrotica to start it, to churn out content a few days a week and to start the conversation.  But to manage a team of ten, apply for grants, churn out content twice daily, and build a weekly newsletter among other things?  It feels like a bit much.  There are certainly things in life that deserve and take hard work but only if they are clear priorities.

So, what are my goals with this project and what are my priorities?  I’ve given thought to both these questions, and there will always be things that tempt.  Even if my priorities are developing the content and starting a conversation, it is tempting to direct my efforts toward publicity and toward scoring a feature in the NY Times or Cosmo.  (I know that this may help to build the audience anyway.)  Even if my priority is offering sex education and developing Jewishly relevant works of literature, it is tempting to direct my efforts toward book proposals and speaking engagements as it would be fun to wear the hat of “prize-winning author”.

I’m building a brand that I believe in, but I don’t need an empire.  I am 100% committed to the projects that I take on and the people in my life, but I need to check the external ambition at the door.  Just because I can do something (get major media coverage) or be something (the published author) doesn’t mean that I should be, and doesn’t mean that it merits spending the rest of my twenties to get there.

Spending my whole day every day on Jewrotica has not given me the time to read, to practice yoga, and to go out and explore Austin.  I think that a valuable remedy to this will be setting firm boundaries to work on the project hours per day and days per week, and to separate out my Jewrotica e-mails from the rest of my inbox.  I recently read an article that suggested a beautiful re-frame.  Instead of saying “I don’t have time” for X, instead shift the language to “It’s not a priority”.  If you don’t feel comfortable saying the new statement with the language of priority, then it signals to you that it’s time to re-work what your priorities are and how they line up with your current time allocation.

Thoughts?

posted by ayo

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8 responses

29 11 2012
Yoda

I totally agree with your sentiment. It’s way too easy to get sucked in to what you CAN do rather than what you want to do. Plus, ambition is not a character trait that is easy to tamp down. If Jewrotica is fun but not really doing it for you, hand off some of the day to day responsibilities to someone else and just engage in the parts you like.
PS – I thought this line was hilarious: “I have found myself spending whole days in front of the computer fielding e-mails and assorted project matters – something that is neither fun nor healthy.” Um…. isn’t this normal life for most people with a desk job?

6 12 2012
ayo

You’re totally right, Yoda. I meant that sitting in front of a computer all day wouldn’t be healthy for ME – even though it often feels like I do this. But yes, I suppose this is regular life for most white collar workers. Hopefully they’ve adjusted better to the reality. 🙂

Also, thanks for the encouragement re: CAN vs. WANT. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

29 11 2012
Rachel

Outsource. Read the 4 Hour Workweek (although you probably did since the blog is on your blog roll). A virtual assistant is not too costly.

6 12 2012
ayo

It’s an interesting idea. I’ve gotten better at delegating, but have such an eye for detail that I don’t know I could trust other people to proof and prep the Jewrotica posts to the level that I do (as one example). But definitely something to keep in mind for the future!

1 12 2012
Josh

Hey Ayo… pointed question. I assume you are still living on your savings from a few years ago, but I’d imagine they’ll be depleted over time. So I’d think at some point you’ll be looking to have a job, or start your own business…. and when that time comes you’ll either have the desk job worries that Yoda mentioned above, or have the exact same time crunch situation you do now. This may seem stuffy, but you’re not just weighing the pro’s and cons of choosing b/w what current activities you do, but also what the various projects will enable you to do in the future. If your side projects take up a lot of time now, you might not be able to read and do yoga at the moment, but you might be investing your time now to get a whole lot of free time in the future. Sort of like you did with your savings when you started this whole adventure. Otherwise, abandoning projects b/c they require too much energy now might wind up putting you in a worse place down the road. Just my 2 cents.

6 12 2012
ayo

Hey Josh!

Good advice. I generally tend to stick with things that I’ve started (which can be both a strength and a weakness). The question is not whether to abandon the project, but how much time to invest. My main interest with Jewrotica is a combo of fun and educational rather than it being a revenue-maker. There could be ways to pull in revenue and perhaps I will pursue that at some point, but I suppose there are other things that I’d rather do to make money.

Regarding your “pointed question”, I am thankful that I haven’t had to dip into savings at all. I supported both myself and Yair for 2-3 years solely off of my teaching engagements from Faces of Israel. (It helped that we lived modestly!) I am currently winding down the tour, so I’ll need to find another source of income if I’d like to keep the savings untouched but thankfully I’ve been able to work things out so far.

3 12 2012
examinedlifeworthliving

Hi Ayo, I was going to post words that merely validated what you already said (the upshot of which was: Keep your balance and stay happy. Maintaining a focus on what really matters (your priorities) will almost always bring you satisfaction in your life), but I realized that I would not be adding anything to the conversation.

Instead, I have this to say from the perspective of someone much older than you:
It seems to be human nature to get on “the treadmill;” most of us hop on without much of a thought. Good for you that you are giving it thought b/c even if Jewrotica is “yours,” what you describe is still running the treadmill. The problem is, once we get on the treadmill, it becomes habit. Over the years, running the treadmill becomes a priority and the runner feels as if there is no other meaning in her life if she isn’t on that treadmill. Taking time to read, practice yoga or “indulge” in other activities that were once pleasing seem like just that: indulgences, luxuries that are at the bottom of the priority list. The treadmill becomes life in the runner’s mind and getting off is psychologically difficult. ‘Tis better to never hop on.

6 12 2012
ayo

Wow. That is powerful stuff. Thank you for sharing.

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