On approaching work…everything

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Frank Page and Bob the Squirrel at workIt’s all about the work.

Middle age is odd.  On the one hand, you’ve amassed an archive of life experience from which to draw upon for your work.  Any problem that you face can be kinda sorta dealt with based on prior experience.  On the other hand, you also realize that you know absolutely nothing.  The new is too new and too exhausting to keep up with.  You make a valiant effort to try and keep up but the pace seems to get quicker and quicker… even if it’s not changing.

The pace hasn’t changed, you’ve changed.  And sooner than you think, there’s more behind you than there’s ahead of you.

I say there are things that I’m not going to do.  I say there are things that I’m definitely going to do.  If I manage to get 50% of any of it done that’s a win, right?

I’ve been struggling with the strip lately. This also accounts for my lack of posts.  That struggle is nothing new.  Do something for 15 years and you’re bound to have a few off days.  Maybe the thought of the 5,000th strip approaching intimidated me. I don’t know. Lately, the off days have stretched into off weeks.  It genuinely scares me.  I can’t do the thing that I do as easily as I once was able to.  But, I’m still in the game…. and I’m still drawing.  Below average work is still better than avoiding work altogether.

I think about the baseball player Ichiro Suzuki.  He’s played professional baseball in Japan and the U.S. since 1992.  I only became aware of him when he was traded to the NY Yankees in 2012.  He wasn’t a home run hitting guy, he wasn’t flashy, he was just Ichiro.  He got on base with singles.  Sure, he’d knock one out here and there, but he was clutch when the team needed clutch.  He would do the exact same stretch routine every time he got in the batter’s box.  He had a weird swing that worked for him.  AND, he could field like a teenager. Even if he struck out, I really looked forward to his at-bats. He was professional, reserved and just awesome.

He was traded to the Miami Marlins, at the age of 41, at the beginning of 2015.  He’s still playing today.  He may not get as many at-bats anymore, but he’s still important.  he’s still relevant.  From the Miami Herald:

As the iconic outfielder for the Marlins prepares to embark on his 25th season in professional baseball — the past 16 of them in the U.S. majors — Ichiro is an enigma.

At 43, he is the oldest position player in the majors. Only Braves pitcher Bartolo Colon — 51 days his senior — is older among active players. And yet there is no sign of quit in him.

He said he wants to continue playing until he’s 50.

“I’m not joking when I say it,” Ichiro said.

“Physically, unless you have some kind of injury, you don’t really need a break,” Ichiro said of his relentless work ethic. “I think mentally you sometimes need a break. But for me, my body is built so that if I don’t work out, that’s when I put more stress on my body and get more tired.

He still puts in the work.  Even if his role on the teams has been diminished, that’s no excuse to stop working.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned to LOVE the work.  If my daily routine (and I mean DAILY…no off days, weekends or holidays) is disrupted in some way I make it up.  If the struggle is too much, maybe I need to change the work out.  So that’s where I am now… looking for a way to change the workout and in turn helping the work.  Fine tuning it and making it just as good or BETTER than anything I’ve done.

It’s still exciting to me. Not many people can say that about something they’ve done religiously for a decade and a half.

goals and systems…

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One step leads to another.

Where is he going with this?

I’ve spent a lot of time working on this comic.  It stopped being an occupation a very long time ago.  Initially, I started the strip to possibly get a syndication deal and make a living.  I The goal was to become a syndicated cartoonist.  The ONLY thing I’d do is the strip… that would be my job.

That was the plan.
That was the goal.
That was almost 15 years ago.

51NrS9MAT9L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_I recently finished reading How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams.  I wouldn’t say that the text changed my life per se- despite the fact that Astronaut/Artist Capt. Alan Bean sent me his personal copy (!).  Capt. Bean said that he got some ideas from it and maybe it could help me.  When a Apollo astronaut tells you it could help, you tend to give that “help” some greater scrutiny.

So, yeah.  As I said before… the goal was to become a syndicated cartoonist.  But Adams contends that by setting a goal for myself, I most likely set myself up for guaranteed failure… because anything achieved short of the goal is technically a failure.  Goal setting is for suckers.

Adams believes that people who create SYSTEMS for success are more successful.  I cried bullsh-t on that when I read it.  But, Alan Bean says it could help… I put the bullsh-t aside and read on.  The more I read, the more it kind of made sense.  Creating a system of work that builds on work is more realistic.  It allows for greater leeway and creates situations that may take you on different, unintended, yet positive paths.  The goal I set for myself way back in 2002 was not a way to ensure success.  Going by that, I failed out of the gate.  Failed for a decade and a half.  I’m failing while writing this.

That’s not to say it’s been a waste.  It has not by any means.  It just means that my goal held me back and focused me so much that I may have missed a ton in the periphery.  I don’t know what that periphery was/is.  But believe me when I say this:  From this point on, I’m looking all around.

It’s not an occupation, it’s my life.  It’s not a goal.  It’s a system.

Now I just have to figure out how to create a system… other than “looking all around”.

a new character?


For those of you new to the squirrel scene, you need to know this: we grow sunflowers. They’re kind of our thing… and not just because squirrels love them.  We love them.  It was the primary flower in our wedding.   Last year I planted a ton… thinking that nature would cull most of them.  We got a ton.  It was great.

This year, I selectively planted here and there.  So far we’ve done okay.  This year’s crop is grown from last year’s crop.

Last night, I noticed we have new livestock on our tiny farm.  Ladybugs.  Lots of ladybugs.  They especially love the yet-to-flower sunflowers.  So, don’t be surprised if a new diminutive, yet sassy character makes an appearance in a future strip.

More to make the comic strip popular…

A few weeks ago, I compiled a list of things that, if in or incorporated into my comic strip Bob the Squirrel, “…would probably make me tons of money, make me world famous and contribute greatly to my inability to sleep at night.”

I have since added to the list… starting with Number 10.

These are the original nine:

  1. Zombies
  2. Some sort of gaming
  3. Hipsters
  4. A weapon (swords, axes… no guns)
  5. Bikinis
  6. Skinny Jeans
  7. Energy Drinks (non-coffee or cola)
  8. Some sort of X-Sport
  9. An old fart like me talking about the days when flannel was in-style (never thought it went OUT of style).
  10. Take away the soul
  11. Make it look like everything else
  12. Make up more interesting things about myself to make the strip more exciting.
  13. Swear more
  14. Ban it. (Of course, for this to work, it’d have to of been popular at one time. )
  15. Add another squirrel…if one doesn’t work, why not double it?

If there’s something I missed, I will amend it… as with life, it’s always a work in progress…

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