In 2016, a coach I was working with asked me to list all the projects I’d abandoned or left incomplete since I’d started my business in 2001. It was a sobering and painful exercise. Not only did I have to list the projects, I was asked to write about what had occurred and why I’d abandoned them.
I ended up with a list of 18 projects. (I can think of at least another 5 to add to it now.) At the time, I recall feeling deep shame over my “abandoned” projects. It brought up many hard questions and some unhelpful self-flagellation. Why had I not finished what I’d set out to do? What is the flaw in my character that would have me start something yet not finish it?
Connect Network; 2001-2008
One of those “abandoned” projects was the closure of Connect Network, a vibrant community of freelancers that had gathered over monthly breakfasts for more than seven years. It was a network I’d built fresh out of the corporate world in 2001 – from nothing and with no funding. A network that had helped more than 3000 people connect with each other, learn from each other and do business together. On reflection, I had not abandoned it, I’d simply made a decision to close it and take on a new project. And it was in fact, a huge success with a legacy that still exists to this day.
Today, I consider this exercise deeply flawed and I feel some anger towards that coach. To me, the very nature of the word “abandoned” implies a weakness of character. I wondered why she’d not asked me to list all the projects I’d completed as well, the ones that were successful and that had made an impact. Why was it so one-sided?
If her intention was to make me feel miserable and in dire need of her coaching, this exercise worked. Today, I look back on those “abandoned” projects and consider all the good things that came out of them, what they led to and how they each helped me gain clarity of purpose.
An end-of-year stock-take
As we’re nearing the end of this somewhat apocalyptic year, a stock-take of your past projects – both personal and professional, complete and incomplete, seems like a worthy exercise. Take a couple of hours to list the projects. How did you feel about them at the time? How do you feel about them now? What were the outcomes? Are they still going? If so, why are they still going? What’s the secret ingredient to their life? If they’re no longer going, why not? What happened?
Once you’ve completed this list, take some time out. Go for a long walk in nature with your journal with this question in mind.
“What past project, if resurrected in 2022, would bring me most joy and be most helpful to others?”
Then sit on a rock. Breathe. Reflect. Meditate. Ruminate. Write. See what comes to the page. I promise there will be something calling you to be rejuvenated, reinvented, repurposed.
For me, the project I chose to breathe a second life into, has been Talk on Purpose. For three years, the course remained latent and languishing. Not so much abandoned, but on hold. Over the past six months, it’s been redesigned and relaunched for two new markets and it’s really hitting the mark. Perhaps it’s due to the right time, right place? Or perhaps it’s just about putting in the time and giving it the love and attention it requires to succeed?
We all have abandoned, languishing, rejected (call it what you will) projects sitting in the dark corner of our cupboard somewhere. Guaranteed, one of them is waiting for a new life. What’s your project for 2022? Do share. I’d love to know.