Sometimes, you can’t get past an idea. It grabs you so tightly, you just have to go with it. That’s what happened with The Work Project.

A combination of factors, ideas and conversations that built up over a few months and steered me in this direction, culminated with me writing the inception post on September 3rd. That was 19 days ago and now I’m finally starting to understand the project, what it requires from me, what I need to survive and -most scarily- how far I am away from that right now. I’ve had a massive mirror held up to my personality and I can see myself very clearly, failings and all.

Here’s the story so far…

Ideals, Ideas, Failings and Fun

After writing the post on September 3rd, I shared it a little, had some great feedback on Twitter and finally got a webpage up a few days later. It was a leisurely beginning and as I started conversations in a couple of LinkedIn groups, I could see that this was an idea worth pursuing. I had a few really nice calls from LinkedIn connections who had read the post and I also started to feel a sense of freedom I’ve never had in my work before – I can do anything I want!

But I went into this with only enough money for a month. That leisurely start means I’m getting really short.

I’ve always been an ideas person, letting the organisation and attention to detail fall by the wayside under the assured notion that ‘it will all be ok’. I started The Work Project with that exact approach. I’ve received some great feedback, support and input from many inspiring people whom I look up to and admire, high-profile conversations are also easier to come by. The diary is filling up, but I need to get organised, find a way to survive in the short-term while the project beds in and start compiling some information. The whole point of the project is to make it useful for others, after all.

As a not hugely helpful academic told me recently – without data, it’s nothing. I need to start keeping some records (which I’m resolved to sort out today) and turn the volume on my activity up to eleven!

Humanism and Egotism

My good friend Rich Lloyd has been saying since the start that people will want to hear about my experiences as a human, not just about the project’s findings on the structures of work. This doesn’t rest easy with me as someone who prefers to hear what others are doing – I feel like an imposter or an egotist when I share my stories. It feels like I’m stealing others’ limelight. But I agree it’s worth exploring the personal effects, so this is a step towards documenting the more human side of the project…

The first piece of alternative feedback I received was when someone I was meeting for the first time looked me straight in the eyes and said:

Why are you doing this? I think it’s a cry for help.

In a way it is — and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

If this is an experiment on how we can rethink ‘work’, then necessarily, it’s partly a search for personal meaning, individually and collectively. I’m comfortable with that and if it’s useful for others to share in my personal journey as well as the conceptual project, I’m happy to share it.

What catalysed this sudden change of heart was a trip to the excellent Silicon Beach 2014 where, in particular, listening to and meeting Claire Burge, Simon White, Stephen Waddington, Tom Eldridge and Benjamin Southworth, reinforced the ideas that:

  • This is a worthwhile project. I’ll learn a lot, but I’ll be able to create some great insight for others.
  • Being human and being yourself is not only allowed, it’s essential
  • The ideas I have and work I do that will hopefully get me through this in one piece isn’t crazy, it’s important and others will understand it (I just need to find them)
  • People are genuinely supportive, interested and have an often unrecognised tendency for altruism.
  • So I’m going to share. I know it will get dark and I’ll probably feel sorry for myself at times, but that’s just part of the ride – it will be good to know there are people out there who can tell me to get my head out of my own backside! This is very much a first-world project looking at structure and meaning, not a daily struggle to merely survive and I need to remain conscious of that.

    Problems with Infamy

    This is a reasonably unique project. As a result, it’s going to be reasonably easy to get some attention and generate some interest. This could be helpful in getting me started doing valuable work I want to do, but I need to be careful that the project itself doesn’t become my only work.

    That would negate the value of the project to others who might want to reconsider their relationship with work. The purpose of this was to create insight and interest that could be accessible to others — without that value and meaning, it’s pointless.

    Where I Am

    As things stand, 19 days in, I’ve gained some personal insight and I am starting to fill the diary up with pieces of work and meetings that may lead to work. I need to better communicate my skills and knowledge, so people will know why they should work with me in the first place and generally I just need to ramp everything up.

    This week is about getting organised, getting focussed and getting out there. I have some interesting side projects happening, but they need to be supported by the main project itself. Most centrally, I need to focus hard on how I’m going to pay the bills next month!

    Personal lesson #1: Learn to Focus.

    By Andy Swann on September 22, 2014
    Exported from Medium on July 15, 2016