June 30 marks the halfway point of the year, the Mid-Year’s Eve of 2018.  In keeping with the traditional year-end ritual, I thought it would be a good time to check in on my progress towards the goals I set for myself six months ago.  Here is my original plan:

2017 – reading books about architecture, design, history, etc.; going on tours; writing about what I learn

2018 – drawing, sketching, learning software; continuing to read and write

2019-2021 – hopefully by this point I’ve made some connections and can work or intern with a firm, building a portfolio, until…

2022 – my daughter graduates from high school and I go back to school

The good news:  I’ve continued to read and write.

The bad news:  I’ve done little in the way of “drawing, sketching, and learning software” – consistently, at least.

Because I had already created the habit of reading and writing first thing in the morning, it has been easy to continue doing that.  Those are 75 quiet, undistracted minutes that I look forward to every day.

However, I was leaving the software studies for the afternoon and it just wasn’t working.  As structured as I am, the more hours that pass from that first cup of coffee, the less control I have over my attention and willpower.

The plan was easy.  I would spend 45 minutes per day on each of my software and drawing books:

Monday: Using AutoCAD 2005: Basics
Tuesday: Home Designer 2014 Reference Manual & User’s Guide
Wednesday: Photoshop Elements 12: the missing manual
Thursday: The Professional Practice of Architectural Working Drawings
Friday: Draw 50 Buildings and Other Structures

I’ll be honest, I was bored to tears!  For whatever reason, an hour and a quarter seems to fly when I’m reading, writing, studying, and following wherever my curiosity leads me.  But to get through 15 minutes of textbook reading, I had to virtually chain myself to the chair.  By the time Friday came around, the energy to work through my perfectionism and apprehension of drawing was nowhere to be found.

My solution: if 15 minutes is all I can handle, then 15 minutes it is.  I moved this additional study time to my already-established morning routine to guarantee it happens.  In the long run, it will be better to focus on consistency over quantity, anyway.  I’ve been doing this now for the past three weeks and it has been painless.

Except for the drawing and sketching part…

A session with a psychiatrist would reveal several theories to explain my drawing resistance, but at the root is some form of fear, coupled with perfectionism.  I had a similar fear of writing, but because writing isn’t the primary skill I will need to pursue architecture, there was no pressure to do it well.  Drafting and sketching IS a required skill for architecture, and if I were to do it and discover I’m terrible at it, I’ll be a failure and my dreams will be crushed.  By avoiding it, I can continue on in happy ignorance.  (Notice how I scheduled my drawing day for the very end of the week?  I am that good!)  Unfortunately, avoidance is not the path to fulfilling one’s dreams and goals.

As the Universe would have it, I happened to be watching an episode of my favorite YouTube channel the other day when I realized I am merely in one of the four stages of learning.  Brian Johnson explains in his Philosopher’s Note on Will Bowen’s book, A Complaint Free World:

Whenever you want to learn something new, you start in unconscious incompetence. You’re not even aware that you’re bad at something.  You’re unconsciously incompetent.  That’s Phase 1.

Now, when you start playing something like the 21-day challenge [to stop complaining], you move into conscious incompetence.  At least now you know you kind of suck at it. You’re consciously incompetent.

Then, when you’ve practiced it for a long time, you become consciously competent.  Now, you’re pretty good at it, but it still takes conscious attention.

Then, you move into the fourth stage which is unconscious competence.  Once you’ve practiced something long enough, it becomes second nature for you – unconsciously competent.

While Stage 2 may be quite lengthy and painful at times, it’s still just a phase.  Besides, I knew this from the beginning when I quoted Brian Tracy a year and a half ago:

Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.

My ego doesn’t like it, though.

While I’m a little disappointed in myself that I haven’t made more progress on my goals for the first half of 2018, I am still committed to reaching Stage 3.  As my favorite fitness coach always says,

You can hurry up and fail, or you can take your time and win.

~ Jonathan Roche

Oh, and drawing is moving to Mondays from now on.