November 7, 2017

Projects without purpose

Why you don't always need to monetize

I like making things.

I mostly invest my time into making things that have purpose; work projects, side projects or freelance projects.

Each of these projects include stakeholders or milestones. Usually the project contributes to a larger, overarching goal. This means my role is to contribute my skills towards a small piece of a large puzzle that needs to fit together nicely.

I enjoy working on these projects. As I dig deeper into the problems that need to be solved or challenges to overcome I’m greeted with new opportunities, and learnings.

As I learn from these projects I graduate towards making bigger and more complex things. Overtime I’ve seen the learnings contribute towards my owncareer and influence my goals.

But there’s something I’ve been thinking about lately – does every thing I make have to be filled with purpose?

What would happen to a project if you stripped the purpose away? Imagine if, suddenly the purpose was taken from you. What would you do with the project?

Perhaps you’d continue on doing it, just for yourself. Is that selfish?

I was recently talking to a friend who’d been listening to the 10,000 hours podcast. He told me he’d listened to a particularly striking episode. In the episode there was a discussion on how to maximise your returns on every single things you do; whether it be a side project, hobby or exploration.

If you’re already putting the work into it, why not turn it into something others can benefit from, right? Stick a price tag on it, chuck it on Instagram under a new curated account, start blogging about it or create a behind the scenes vlog. Turn it into valuable content you can one day monetize.

I’ve felt this pressure too many times — as though every ounce of creativity that gets extracted from my brain needs to be commoditised.

It’s an interesting argument. I paused and thought back on the work I’ve done in the past — a mixture of failed and successful projects. As I pondered I suddenly realised the key ingredient required to make a project of mine successful vs. a dying liability.

Is my heart in this?

There’s a big difference between making something for self fulfilment and making something to fulfil others.

Yes you could turn your hobby for cooking into a full-blown cooking blog which might lead to cooking videos which turns into a cookbook and voila you’ve maximised your return.

But now you depend on cooking, something that was once a hobby, for a living — and in the process you probably destroyed or lost you’re love for it along the way.

What if you don’t want to make a cook book? What if you’re content, happy and fulfilled with crafting delicious recipes, exploring the smells at your local market and preparing a beautiful meal just for yourself?

While I know there’s a chance you’re not foodie, hopefully you’re starting to see that this kind of mindset can be detrimental to the things you make.

Once you invite the pressure to maximise, the project is in danger. If your heart isn’t in it you’re at risk of losing interest or passion. Your project may become a chore rather than something you did out of love, passion or curiosity. Don’t jeopardise that magic.

In the last few years we’ve read endless discussions on hustle and self-revenue making. There’s suddenly an opportunity for everyone to become a millionaire by turning their outputs into money-making machines .

But what if it’s not the pay check at the end of the day that fulfils you?

When I think back to my own projects, what drives me is the personal accomplishments I make along the way. I often reflect on not only what I learnt, but that I could’ve only learnt that without boundaries.

There’s a lot of material in the world that will teach you how to reach success and work smarter. I’ve yet to find material that teaches you how to accomplish those things while staying healthy, raising a family, enjoying the work and feeling fulfilled and happy with your life.

The messages in these books, articles and videos is inspiring. However I see people attempt to apply the learnings to every corner of their lives, including things that perhaps were fine the way they were.

If you’re asking yourself: If I’m not providing value in everything I do, what’s the point? The point is to have fun! Explore, push boundaries and be happy with what you create.

Just because you enjoy being curled up on your couch doodling, doesn’t mean you should turn your doodles into a 100 days project. Give yourself a break. Lay off some of the pressure and stop thinking for a moment about turning everything into ‘a thing’.

Success in a project is not defined by it’s ability to generate revenue.

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