Rendered Fat Content


Rembrandt van Rijn: Abraham's Sacrifice (1655)
"Some days, I manage to walk through walls."

I deeply dislike the term Deadline when used to denote a point where an assignment's supposed to be completed. It connotes something almost never evident, that the date represents a drop dead point, that somebody will die should that expectation not be satisfied. This is so rarely the case, that Deadline amounts to hyperbole, intended, perhaps, to rile up the more existential instincts. I've seen project teams go insane in the shadow of an impending Deadline, though I've yet to see anybody actually die when the Deadline wasn't met. They're mostly never met. A trumped up threat might serve as the very last thing most project teams seem to need to motivate them to perform.

I've proposed calling them Stay Awake Dates, points of special awareness well short of existential dread.
Points of convergence seem more likely to get lost in a project's noise, and so might warrant some special labeling, but not to the point of even inadvertently scaring anybody, or threatening. Nobody performs better when a gun's held to their head and people catch on that it's just another idle threat, yielding cynicism rather than focused attention.

I've noticed that I tend to manage my own self-inflicted milestones by means of Dreadlines. I tend to propose terrifying objectives then watch myself shrink back from achieving them. I consequently wrestle with myself perhaps more than might be healthy. I propose a necessary next step even though I know that this step might well step on my own tenderer toes. It might force me to march into enemy territory, to face some longstanding fear, to get over another self-enforced cognitive barrier. These represent some of my deeper fears and dreads, for each sparks at least a small existential crisis. To comply feels dangerous. To not at least try feels contemptuous. I'm trying to encourage a kind of innocence, one I've perhaps, through long experience, already far outgrown. I attempt to employ the same tactic my parents used to use when trying to encourage me into a second or third try. They knew that I'd not forgotten how I'd fallen off that bike on the first as well as the second try, but they'd propose that a next try was not necessarily fated to produce the same sorry result. That the future could be different. Much goading almost always convinced me to at least try. Sometimes, to even try, try again, and so eventually succeed. I seemed to need the dread as well as the encouragement to overcome it. That's my native dynamic.

Many subtle barriers to entry exist between the me that sits before myself this morning and owning a sense of full and ongoing authorship. I've accumulated most of these fences through experience and scholarship, though a few seem to have originated in rumor, hardly even hearsay evidence, but they represent my existing defenses. They keep me static if not precisely safe, sometimes stuck in lieu of making progress. I almost never remember just where I accumulated any of them. A few, certainly, emerged from traumatic experiences, but most settled in more through an over-abundance of caution rather than due to any clear or present dangers. Still, they exist and they exhibit sometimes significant influence upon how I might engage with my Authoring effort. There seem to be an awful lot of things I just will not countenance without taking what might seem like an unreasonable chance. My job seems to have become the chief goading officer of the effort, constantly proposing that I tread into and onto some previously unmentionable area for the purpose of making actual progress.

Like everyone, I've proven myself fully capable of inhibiting my own advancement. I can make up convincing excuses. I can scare myself without hardly even thinking about it. I can find myself coloring within lines that haven't even existed for decades, and even satisfying myself for my careful if meaningless compliances. Authoring involves challenging my edges, proposing sometimes outrageous alternatives, and goosing myself into at least trying, if not always try, try, trying to get around, over, and beyond them. The purpose of my Authoring initiative was not originally to preserve my old status quo. I intended my life to be different as a result. I won't resort to imposing
deadlines to achieve that end, but I will and have adopted my Dreadlines, instead. Up each morning, attempting to see how I might non-mortally scare myself into action such that I at least try a slightly different direction than the one maintaining how it's always been for me. Some days, I manage to walk through walls. Other days, I stall.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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