Chris Baus

Resolutions for 2010: Become a content production machine. Do what is important.

New Year's is one my favorite holidays as it comes with the least responsibility of all the major holidays. There is nothing to do except have a good time. No turkeys to cook or presents to buy.

K keeps a scrap book of mementos and looking back, even with all the economic craziness, 2009 was a good year. We traveled, went to a lot of shows, got some work done, and our families saw good health. Last spring, when the market melted down, I thought I would be out of a job. Fortunately that didn't happen, and in many ways our team came together which made us even more effective.

I'm optimistic about 2010. Although the U.S. has some systemic problems that we haven't come to terms with, our fundamentals are right. In times of crisis, it is best to embrace the fundamentals.

I appreciate the customary self critique of resolutions. A resolution doesn't need to be self deprecating, but a recognition that no matter how well things are going, there is room improve. My resolutions this year are a bit odd (sure I need to lose 15lbs, but that isn't anything new). My resolutions are to become a content production machine, and do what is important.

Become a content production machine

It sounds kind of strange to aspire to become a content production machine, but I wrote last year that I had started to take the internet for granted. I acted as if there will always be another day to express my opinions, but if history is a guide, that might not always be the case. I have more power of expression at my finger tips than in the entire history of mankind. That's not something to take lightly, as there are many places were the internet is already tightly control and freedom of expression limited. I am very fortunate to live in a country with a strong foundation in freedom of expression.

Also the ability to create content is increasing quickly. Writing is just the beginning. Video and (and to a certain extent) audio is going to be increasingly huge in the next couple years. It takes a lot of energy to write. I'm busy, I'm tired, I don't have the mental energy to write, but why limit myself to writing? It could very well be easier to just record my thoughts in a audio cast or video log. I definitely think doing something is better than nothing.

Do what is important

One of my biggest influences from 2009 was the late Randy Pausch. I was a late comer to Randy Pausch's work, but I've never heard anyone put the meaning of life in such concise terms. If there is one lesson I've learned from Randy, it is, "Do what is important."

While Pausch deservedly became famous for his Last Lecture, I've found his talks on time management to be even more pragmatic and possibly valuable.

When I'm driving (which I do a lot)I tend to put a familiar album on repeat and roll around the events of the day. This year I kept hearing Randy's voice in my head, "Do what's important. Do what's important." I'm bad at this. I do shit that isn't important all the time. Here's an example. With Randy's guidance, I did do something semi-important on my to-do list: I got my old Porsche out of the garage. That is something I failed to do for nearly 2 years as I became overwhelmed by the work it required. But getting the car on the road was important because everyday when I came home and saw it in the garage it sapped a little energy from me because in the back of mind I thought, "I need to get that Porsche out of the garage." It kept me from doing other more important things.

While the Porsche isn't important, getting it out of the garage was because it represented just another thing to do. But then I did something that wasn't important. I obsessed about the stupid thing. How much is this going to cost? How much is it worth? Is the suspension pan going to rust out? Is it going to need a valve job? Those are valid questions, but they aren't important.

And this is why I haven't reached Pausch's zen state of productivity. In retrospect, I should have done the important thing (get the Porsche out of the garage), and then moved on to the next important thing. But that's hard, and it is the reason Randy Pausch was Randy Pausch, and I'm not. Completing one important task threw me off course of my next task.

Even in his dying days, Pausch didn't claim that his work, and the fun he had doing it, wasn't important. It is clear that Randy put his family above all else, but he had a lot of pride in what he accomplished in his career. He said he made dreams come true, and he did. If I saw one thing last year that absolutely blew my mind as an engineer it is was the game by two of his former students, World of Goo. The entire game, including design, animation, musical score, and programming was done by two people with virtually no budget. It is a benchmark of what can be accomplished with a small team, and the interdisciplinary skill set it took to build it is mind boggling.

Fascination, passion, and the freedom to dream is what drives our society forward. The U.S. has a strong work ethic, but I don't believe work should be viewed as universally unenjoyable, because if virtue is found in doing unenjoyable work, the small things that make our working lives better will be not be considered valuable, even when the true costs are very small.

So this year I resolve to do what is important, but the hard part is understanding what is really important.