I’m working my way through the book Initiative by our great podcast guest and friend, Josh Spodek (check it out here), and the first challenge he gives is to keep an account of all the exercises as you go through them with some friends, family, or colleagues. I consider all of the guests of the show my friends in some way, so you’re going to get a peek into this process as I go through it!
The first exercise is a personal essay, and as the exercise suggested I just used the prompts for the first time through it (he encourages you to go through these exercises multiple times as you need to and your ideas change over time), and I slept on my first draft before putting it down here. I took Neil Gaiman’s approach and wrote my first draft in fountain pen, because…. why not? It’s fun! Here goes!
What is your field of interest?
Helping men get started in a life of adventure.
What motivated you to learn initiative?
I tend to get stuck with ideas that are too big to be immediately actionable, too many ideas to choose from, or get easily distracted by shiny—-squirrel! I can also get burnt out on an idea, then feel guilty for killing it off or pivoting to something else.
What do you hope to come from learning initiative?
A project that I can sustain my passion around and not get burnt out on it! Especially one that aligns with God’s calling for my life and my core values. I want to live a life that is whole and holy. Integrated and full. I want my career to fill up the lives of others with so much joy and value that they want to support me for helping them!
What do you think about taking responsibility, taking initiative, solving problems, and creating projects?
I’m scared to take responsibility sometimes because I don’t think that I have what it takes to execute on those obligations (especially if they’re outside of my comfort zone or experience area). I also say yes WAY too easily, so I get overwhelmed this way because I want to make everyone happy, but in the end I’m afraid I’ll let them all down. I know it’s important to take ownership over all aspects of a project I’m leading (ala Extreme Ownership), which is really uncomfortable. I worry about being judged when I fail.
Taking initiative isn’t as hard for me, but sustaining projects past the initial phase of excitement is where I really struggle. I tend to go too many directions instead of just finishing what I committed to.
Solving problems is a domain of life I really enjoy. Of course, technical problems are attractive to me with my background in engineering, but once I get too far into the details, my head starts to hurt and I get discouraged when I get to a part of the project I don’t quite have the knowledge I need to execute on it. Once things get complex, I freeze. Somehow, I find emotional and relational problems easier to navigate. I think it’s come from having some awesome training in this area from my good friend and retired Navy SEAL, Larry Yatch.
I love creating projects! The beginning phase of projects and designs are really fun for me.
What are your models for how taking initiative and entrepreneurship work?
I keep thinking more about people here than methods, for some reason. How they see a need in a group of people they care about, then figure out a solution they’ll pay for. Building something cool, then trying to find a market for it (not as effective). Finding a pain point or itch in your own life, creating as simple a product as possible to address it. Then sell it to people like you!
Who are your role models?
John Eldredge, Larry Yatch, Erwin McManus, Adam Savage, Jocko Willink, Jason McCarthy, Douglas Costello, Dan McPherson, Larry Hagner, Marc Spagnuolo.
What has worked for you so far in creating projects? What hasn’t?
Finding a need or pain point first! Acting out of an area I already have some experience in. Making it fun!
What hasn’t worked is trying to force a product into a market that no one wants. Doing too many projects myself at once and getting myself burned out. Working too late at night. Spending a lot of time away from my family on side projects.
Where do you want to take initiative?
In my business.
What is your relevant history of taking initiative?
Starting the 3D printing group at Electric Boat! I created strong relationships with people who could open opportunities for me to do some really interesting work in engineering. By doing good work with and for them, I was able to choose a project that I could really sink my teeth into and was passionate about seeing through. That group is still going strong and actually has seven parts approved to be installed on board a submarine! The group was also instrumental in selling the largest defense contract in history to the Navy (Virginia Block IV). I’m super proud of that team I helped create.
I also started my furniture business to fill my want to have some more tools to build things for my family originally, but it morphed into wanting to bring people closer together around a table, sit together on a bench made for their community, or read a book from a nice bookshelf.
What is the value of taking a course like this?
The value for me is having a process to hone my initiative into a more useful tool, instead of getting easily distracted by every new idea that comes along, while still having the freedom to explore new ideas. I also get to share my progress with people I care about and get their feedback!
Part 2: the three lists
People closer to my field of interest
People of high status in my field