Mentoring for a B

Dear reader,

sometimes working for a B can be harder than working for an A. Working for a C can be even more challenging. You need motivation. You may need mentoring. You may need more resources. You may also need… No, I’m not going nuts, let me explain!

What is a B?

In my last post Ups and Downs, or Up and Up? I mentioned a kind of mantra that I’ve been using lately: “You always need to work on a plan B”. I use it to remember to exploit my potential and to expand the horizon of what’s possible for me. Let’s define “plan A” as what you are currently doing as your primary gig / principal duty, be it studying, working solo or for a firm or trying to get a job. Then define “plan B” as something which is not your duty, that is not necessarily related to your “plan A” (but it could be), that requires motivation and effort to pursue, and that you can show others. Some examples:

  1. studying an instrument to perform live
  2. working for a non-profit
  3. learning a new programming language
  4. trying to inject something new into your workplace (along the lines of this post about starting an open library)
  5. learning new techniques for your work
  6. writing a blog (this sounds familiar)
  7. working on a side gig
  8. training hard (yes, sport counts too in my book) for a competition
  9. getting a degree
  10. painting for an exposition

What a plan B cannot be is just something to pass your time, so no watching television, gossiping or throwing stones in the water! Your plan B should also be something that is, potentially, remunerative (even indirectly), you need to address matters professionally. Somebody should look at your work and say “Hey, I could be willing to pay, I think this is worth something”. This is an important point, and it has not much to do with money by itself, but with stakes: it brings an element of reality to what you are doing, forces you to be professional and committed, pushes you to solve problems instead of going around them. Here is one of my all-time favourite quotes:

For the professional, the stakes are high and real

Steven Pressfield – Turning Pro

How to work on Plan B

Let’s see how this concept applies to the above list:

  1. You are going to perform: you need to be able to play every passage of the music. You can’t just play the funny part. The opening riff of Smoke on the Water is ultra-cool and easy, but there is the solo to play later on!
  2. You are working for other people. They will notice if you are not committed.
  3. A computer program either runs or gives errors. You do not pay for bugs, so go and fix them! The first pass of coding was exciting, but now go back and polish your code!
  4. Same as the second point: you can’t fool other people with fake work. Do something useful and with good quality.
  5. Same as programming: a new technique cannot be learned for its sake. It has to produce results, or you are doing some form of mental masturbation.
  6. Writing a private diary is fun and easy. Writing to expose your ideas on the net can be scary! All of a sudden, you realise that there is no substitute for effort and completion: you need the correct grammar, the right words, original content, the guts to cope with derision and criticism, the perseverance to go from start to finish (by the way, I have a post halfway written waiting in my “drafts” folder. Topic? How to track your progress in the back-then-upcoming 2017…)
  7. This is self-explanatory. You want someone to pay for your work (supposing you are not a fraud!)
  8. No shortcuts in sports! The race has to be finished. The score is there for anybody to look at.
  9. Getting a degree is, by definition, a course of action carried out to its completion. No just-for-showing-off-amateurish-skimming of a university textbook allowed!
  10. Doodling is fun. Sketching has mental benefits and trains your eyes. However, bringing your works to an exposition gets you to a whole different level of effort!

As I write, I’m starting to realise that, maybe, a different definition of a plan B could be this: “An activity requiring exacting mental or physical effort aimed at a goal”. However, this is not enough unless you specify the kind of goal. Kicking yourself in the groyne 1.000 times is a goal that requires effort, but it’s not what I have in mind (unless you want to define what the “absolute zero of the comic” is: take a look at this video!).

At the beginning of this post, I also mentioned a “C”: by that I mean a second plan B, something that you are doing alongside a side activity. Putting up a C near a B is more difficult, it requires more time and effort.

So, what am I doing about it?

Sorry to have you hold your breath, but I’ll leave my “B” activity to another post.

In the meantime, I’d like to mention that just yesterday (well after this post was begun) I started reading Hustle: The Life Changing Effects of Constant Motion by Jesse Tevelow. This book is an extended version of the concept “You always need to work on a plan B”, and I’m glad there is someone else out there who cares about it enough to write an entire book about it! It is not a great piece of literature, but it seems like a well-conceived concentrate of sound advice: I recommend it heartily.

Until next time, U better B working!