Trust The Process To Get You Through Mondays
Thank you all for subscribing and staying with me through the end of my content drought. This was originally going to be a post about value-centric data science. I just released a new course called The Value Centric Data Scientist, so I have value on the brain. I share a process in the course, so I also have processes on the brain.
Last week I went through my process for getting through a productivity quality drought. I think we can all relate to spending a week doing low-quality work, realizing it, and figuring out how to break the trash streak. Step 1 was catching it early.
I read what I was going to publish, and it was REALLY bad. The concepts were in there, but they were only apparent to me. The writing style was choppy. The substance did not help explain the concepts or communicate them effectively. Dots were left unconnected.
I am old, so I have seen this enough to realize what was going on. Step 2 is acceptance. My work was trash, and I was in a trash cycle. I return to this meme anytime I get into one. That’s me having my coffee. I was briefly in radio and the morning show producer had a song for times when nothing was working.
“I don’t care. I don’t care. My jokes don’t go over. I don’t care. I don’t care. I sound like I’ve smoked for 45 years. I don’t care. I don’t care.”
Step 2 ends with me singing that song with what’s not working after the 2X I don’t care. Usually very loudly.
A mentor told me, “If everything you do is useless, don’t keep doing it. It isn’t going to get better by doing the same things over and over again and expecting better results.” Step 3 is to stop doing what is not working. It is a waste of effort and only increases frustration. If I deliver it, my problem goes public for everyone to see. There is nothing positive that comes from continually following a broken process.
I always underestimate how hard it is to take my hands off the work and step back. Once I pull myself away, the engineer in me wants to find the problem and fix it. That is not step 4. People are not machines. It is never as simple as fixing a broken hinge or faulty sensor.
Step 4 is to figure out what still works. What can I do? Obviously, my singing voice is still intact, but what else? I can still lift weights, so I did that. I can still read and watch podcasts, so I did that. I took a lot of notes, so that was still working too. I wrote an outline for a post that would not gel, but I built a YouTube video from it. That was still working, so I kept writing outlines and taping videos.
Step 4 is all about reignition. Focusing on failure is the trap of acceptance and stopping. I must move past that and succeed at something. Getting out of bed can be where it starts. I successfully showered today and smell wonderful. WIN!
The other pitfall is to treat what I did not do as a win. I did not go on a drinking bender is not a win because that is also focusing on failure. Not failing is not the point of step 4. Succeeding at something and building on that success is more important.
Sticking with step 4 resulted in some really high-quality work that had nothing to do with what I wanted or needed to get done. I learned a lot over the last 2 weeks. I talked with people about Davos. One theme I could relate to was burnout. Many in the Davos crowd were going through some things. It is difficult to feel bad for the ultra-wealthy, but they provide some insights into burnout. All the money in the world won’t fix it.
The cycle of failure is poison. The longer it goes on, the worse the effects. Even the wealthy start acting erratically. The fear of never getting “it” back again is consuming. The more successful “it” has made someone, the harder it is to imagine their lives without “it.” Super successful people attach “it” to their wealth. The only thing they fear is no longer being wealthy. A place like Davos reminds them that as soon as they lose “it,” they’re on the menu.
We all have that fear, albeit in a different flavor. Everyone is afraid to fail, which hides what we are even more fearful of, endings. Part of every business story and job is the end. The same is true for capabilities.
A foundation only supports a particular-sized building. Once we hit the limit, place the Semtex on the supporting beams. Watch it fall so we can build something more significant. In 2001, 2010, 2014, 2019, and maybe again now, I had to face that fear. It is hard to level the building, but there can be no more progress if it does not end. That is even scarier for me.
Step 2 starts with accepting that nothing is working, but I am not done until I accept that “it” may never work again. Step 5 could be a controlled demolition and the start of a rebuilding process. Step 4 is a process to find out if I have outgrown “it.” I can find a new “it,” but I cannot fight who I have become.
The peril is trying to change back into someone I am not. Fighting my nature is not a battle I can win. Acceptance and completely embracing step 4 allow me to move to step 5, growth. I can still write, so I don’t have to blow up this newsletter and refund everyone’s money.
My teaching style has evolved. I am interested to see where that journey goes. This one is an incremental improvement, not a rebuild. Other changes are much more significant.
I have embraced the technical strategist role, which means I need to leave data scientist behind. Migrating from AI strategist to technical strategist is shifting from a single technical focus to a technology-agnostic approach. Technical advancement waves are continuous, and there is no 1 technology to rule them all.
The majority of data science approaches do not work. The field has chosen a broken direction, and I see a new field around applied research branching away from mainstream data science. It seems even an entire field is not immune from the fear of tearing down and rebuilding stronger. Until data science is forced to follow the applied research pioneers, much of what is being built will continue to be expensive analytics.
I did not enjoy that realization. I love the field and the people in it. At the same time, I cannot argue with reality and results. Microsoft and Amazon’s recent partnership is a capitulation with significant implications. I will be writing a post this week on that topic.
V Squared is growing beyond me and my personal consulting practice. It is a business with multiple arms, and I must build it to support them. This is another difficult reality to face since I have spent 10 years saying the business would always stay very small. Then I grew beyond myself. My obsession with small was a fear of failure. I think my true nature was to develop V Squared from day 1, but fear made me a liar.
My relationship with social media is evolving too. I have not figured out what to change. I am still in the experimentation phases. Social media has been a significant part of my professional life and growth for almost 10 years, so this change will be difficult. It took a lot of effort to accept that I may leave social media entirely. Once I got past that mental barrier, I started to make progress.
That is a lot of personal detail. Sharing my story is a necessary part of sharing my process. It is empty to advise anyone to level a foundation without revealing my work. There are more changes, but I think I have shared enough.
I have talked with many people going through the same burnout cycle I did. That’s what made this post important and why I pushed it to the front of the line. Trust the process. It is slow going the first time, but every time after is much easier. Burnout forces people to confront the growth that has already happened. Growth is undeniable. Trying to roll it back is why we burn out.
Growth requires us to question the nature of our reality. That is frightening and what makes people superior to state-of-the-art deep learning. Generalization comes from rejecting the known patterns and moving outside the data.
The punchline is the process that started with me being unable to write for this newsletter, leaves the newsletter as one of the few areas that will not change. That reveals how important this is to me. Thank you all for being part of the journey.