- The Dale Health Initiative (diet and exercise)
- Working at the Library Foundation (my day job)
- Writing my blogs (this and my not-dead-yet massage blog)
And there were reasons I felt stuck, stymied, and semi-failing in all of them. To take them in order:
The Dale Health Initiative has actually been a major success: my sense of failure here is a weird psychological phenomenon, "success hangover," which afflicts me sometimes in moments of victory. It's entirely bogus. I am down to 154 lbs, running one last weight-loss experiment to see where I want to set the parameters for the long-term management of my weight and size. I am becoming appreciably stronger and better-muscled every week. There is simply no way to categorize this as stuckness or failure. So my job here is some simple CBT-style "talking back" to the anxious, depressive mind. It has succeeded, it is still succeeding, it's pretty cool, and I have the striated delts and the sixpack (well, fourpack, anyway) to prove it. Enough.
Work at the Foundation: there was actually at least a grain of truth here. There were some things I was not keeping up with well: there's a couple low-visibility tasks I tend to put off, because I hate them. And my last data-pull for a fundraising campaign was flawed and weird: I had to patch it up after the fact -- never something you want to do, working with data -- and I never figured out what was wrong in the first place. I'm at peace with making mistakes. If you can't make peace with that you don't belong in software. But I hate not being able to reconstruct my mistakes, not being able to learn from them. That is a failure.
So I've put in some serious time designing checks for my next data pull, and process for documenting the steps -- things I should have done long ago -- so that if something goes south again, I'll catch it in the act and know what I did wrong. And I've instituted a new zero tolerance policy for putting off those tasks. If one of them shows up, I deal with it that day, right away, and I set myself up for public accountability on them. They're not very important, it's not that hard, and I just need to do it.
So that's two down. Next up: massage.
It's high summer, in a heat wave, and my appointments have dwindled. I've lost a couple of regulars and I'm not seeing many new people. None of this is surprising: it's part of the game. Regulars die, they move away, they realize they can't afford it. None of this has to do with me losing weight, turning sixty, and suddenly looking my age.
I'm doing a lot of processing of having a very different face and body. I have lines, wrinkles, topography. There are hills and gullies where there used to be smooth swells. It's all very different. I don't really know who I am any more. And so, in the fashion of my kind, I connect the anxieties: business obviously has gone down because I look different.
Well, probably not. For one thing, I don't actually look worse: I think most people would say I look better. I may not have as much body weight to use, but I'm stronger and my stamina is better. I used to sweat profusely when anxious -- as, for instance, when seeing a new client -- and now I don't: now it takes a LOT to make me sweat. My appearance actually is just not a very good explanation for the dwindling business. Sure, there are people who won't want an old guy. So what?
And the dwindling business actually doesn't need an explanation. There's normal attrition of clientele, there's the summer heat, and there's the fact that for the last half of my massage career my viral "What People Really Look Like" essay has done all my marketing for me. I've actually had an unusually long run of having my practice filled with long-time regulars. Now I need to drum up business. There's not anything that needs explaining, here. There's just stuff that needs to be done.
I need to update my equipment. My table is shabby, my linens are worn, my carry-bag is busted at the seams. None of this matters with regulars, who don't notice and wouldn't care if they did. But they matter for first impressions.
I need to market. I hardly ever update my massage website. I don't even know what it looks like on a phone: I've never had to worry about it, and I haven't kept up with such stuff. It's not particularly easy to schedule with me. In a business with a lot of "threshold resistance" that's stupid. I need to market, and I need to make it easy to schedule. This is not rocket science. It's business 101.
So there's obvious ways forward.
The last item, the topic of writing -- we'll take that up later. There's plenty to do there, too.