Chapter 7: "Oh, that's ambitious".

On doing one thing at a time, not just doing one thing.

Proof-readers preface: a couple of notes before reading a preview to chapter 7:

  • I feel I intended to write these chapters sequentially, & that stopped me from writing anything this past month.

  • I prefer writing by inspiration, and so I’m jumping into Chapter 7.

  • I did intend to have a standard structure for all chapters.

  • I’ll reflect on this chapter against the goals for the book.

  • feedback is welcome. I have my biases.


Chapter 7: "Oh, that's ambitious"

This chapter is dedicated to the phrases we hate hearing:

‘You’re not focused’ & ‘you should focus.’

That’s ambitious…

You’re so confident!

‘You should focus.’

I am focused. I’m focused on a lot of inter-connected things:

  • Big picture: sometimes I’m focused on the big picture. I call this time Big Picture Time™. My big picture is a year or 2-3 years long— sometimes longer.

  • Yearly: throughout each year I’m focused on two or three things.

  • Monthly: every few months I’m focused on 1 or 2 things.

Day to day I’m sometimes doing one thing, while focusing on another. Sometimes I’m doing 2-3 things during the day and that leaves my brain scattered. Lost in big picture time™ and stuck in a loop.

Here are some strategies to stop Big Picture Time™ from taking over day-to-day mindfulness :

  1. keep a list of things that pop into your mind throughout the day.

  2. schedule a special Big Picture Time™ session for after you complete your task at hand. Then complete your task at hand.

  3. map out your big picture on a drawing or a spreadsheet to revisit during your regularly scheduled Big Picture Time™.

Doing these three things reminds me of my perspective, where I need to focus, and rekindles my confidence.

Focused on doing one thing at a time— NOT just focused on doing one thing.

Sometimes that’s stopped opportunities because people or projects might want my undivided attention, as in “make this the only work thing in your life”.

That’s complicated and unfair. It doesn’t work for me.

It’s taken people a long time to appreciate remote work, and it will take time for people to accept new ways of thinking about time, focus, and work.

I hope people will appreciate the art of work in addition to the traditional math of work at some point in their professional careers.


Two extra myths to quell

‘Oh, that’s ambitious’

I’ve heard this a lot throughout my life— ‘That’s ambitious of you’. Is this code for I might be taking on too much, or are my goals outside of the scope of what you’d expect from me? Should I focus on things that aren’t ambitious?

I’ve never heard anyone say “Oh that’s ambitious!” without a raised intonation and a comma after the “Oh”. Try to say it out loud yourself. Now say it without a pause after the “Oh”, like “Oh-that’s-ambitious”. Nod your head while saying it.

Say it like you have confidence in the person you’re talking to, like you believe it’s possible.

Say it like it’s somebody’s name.

‘You’re so confident’

This I hear often, and mostly attributed to me being a man. Though I’ve met a lot of men who are not confident, or have misplaced confidence. I was not brought up in an environment that nurtured confidence either.

Still, sometimes I need to get from point [A] to point [Z]. I know that somehow we’ll have to pass through points [B] [C] [D] [E], all the way through points [X], [Y] and finally to point [Z]. We might even find a shortcut.

Or we may not make it all the way at all.

I only have hope in our success. Where I have confidence is in us stepping-up for each step. And it’s always easier to build that confidence with other people willing to step up together.


On misplaced confidence: you can’t misplace your conviction in stepping up, but you can mistake your hope for confidence.

How do you avoid mistaking hope for confidence? We’ll cover these questions and more in the upcoming book: Some Cold Hard Truths!

If you missed reading the preface, you can find it here.

Thanks for reading.

mj