Project Bankruptcy

Posted on January 7, 2018


When I was thinking about this yearโ€™s annual report, I was overwhelmed by how many projects Iโ€™ve started and stalled over the last many years. You voted on me learning the piano. I canโ€™t play a song. You approved my acquisition of Snacker.News. I rarely post there and have become the equivalent of a deadbeat web dad. You greenlit a nutrition working group that was to define my new diet. I never followed up and I eat whatever I want. In addition to these examples, there are dozens of other concepts, ideas and notions that consume me entirely for a little while until I realize the practical reality of executing them. Then the guilt from all the other half-abandoned projects starts to creep in, which causes me to drop into a project shame spiral, which causes full project paralysis, which results in me distracting myself with the invention of a whole new project.

This is addict behavior! So consider this vote an intervention. If it passes, I will limit my project activities to what matters most: my work at Sandwich Video, my life as the publicly traded person, and my project creating Publicly Traded, Privately Held, the crowdsourced erotic fanfic.

Moreover, moving forward, every new project will be presented to you as a shareholder vote.

Past Discussion

foxmambo (1 shares, voted yes)
Yes to a project moratorium but attempts are not failure - might be wrong timing or motivation, in any case it's important to learn about learning! Finding balance between paid work, social life and creative projects is pretty crucial so good luck with that and please do finish the book.
beau ๐Ÿ’ฏ (185 shares, voted yes)
It's a hard skill to learn (I'm not great at it) but killing off projects before they start to weigh on you will give you a lot of time to work on the important things.
GeneM ๐Ÿ’ฏโ˜•๏ธ (54 shares, voted yes)
I think you should maintain a "prioritized backlog" with your top shareholders and consultants. Projects that interest you and have potential but have not achieved shareholder approval.
E*Rock โ˜•๏ธ (2 shares)
Foxmambo has a point, failure is important because it means you are experimenting which is crucial in art or the market. The problem is that you need to learn how to focus and be diligent in your practice. Its good to know when to end things too.
egli (4 shares, voted no)
I'm all for voting to intervene the cycle of constantly spinning up new projects, but I don't see how that necessitates declaring bankruptcy on all old projects immediately. Will be spun down? Should shareholders no longer be concerned about nutrition? It seems like it would be a more orderly retreat to vote on abandoning projects case-by-case instead of throwing them all out. There are some good points about failure in previous comments but many of these projects didn't fail; they never even started.
Adam Kessler ๐Ÿ’ฏ (310 shares, voted yes)
I thought you had way too many projects open as well and I'm glad to hear you are pruning the tree.
Mike Merrill
Good point about difference between backlog and failure. None of these ideas for projects, old votes, or even started things like Snacker.News need to disappear. The important thing is just to declare them "inactive" and no longer hold myself responsible for working on them. I will still post snack news I find to Snacker.News and I will still not watch any superhero films or TV. This doesn't reset all votes, just puts everything in "storage" until I choose to go back and ask the shareholders if I should make it active. I actually started running a case-by-case analysis but there are so many small things (admittedly many were just R&D efforts and not yet shareholder endorsed) that it more sense to declare what was going to be on the table than what was going to be removed.
freddy (6 shares, voted yes)
I support the idea of admitting you're overwhelmed, asking for help, pruning your obligations, and having a psychological fresh start. I think that it would help you to think about a) accountability and reporting systems, and b) what project management tools have helped you successfully complete projects in the past (bright spot analysis). There's a method called implementation intentions (action planning) that is supposed to help people get from intentions to action. It includes breaking things into actionable steps, but it also includes anticipating possible setbacks and developing coping mechanisms in anticipation. That's the kind of thing that would, I think, help you more than just berating yourself in the hopes that you won't flake in the future.
mrdrake (6 shares, voted no)
Would like to see more transparency and things run in sprints instead of open ended projects. I do like your willingness to let projects go into "storage".
Mike Merrill
I like the idea of sprints and totally agree that the open-ended projects are what got me in trouble.
Curt โ˜•๏ธ๐Ÿ’ผ (100 shares, voted yes)
At risk of adding another cook to the kitchen, and seconding the idea of limiting open-ended projects, my tip is to put concrete boundaries on votes. Instead of "Learn the play the piano," maybe: "Take a weekly lesson for three months." Then you could come back and say, "I really like it and want to be the next Victor Borge, should I commit to a year of lessons?" or "My fingers hurt and I still can't find middle C; project over."
tote (4 shares, voted no)
I strongly agree with the accountability sentiment other shareholders have expressed here and in previous threads. In this vein, and in the spirit of your use of the word "intervention", I propose the following drastic solution: For the next two months, propose frequent small projects/sprints (hereafter referred to as "tasks") and report back to us on the success of each approved task. This will establish a habit of completing projects and reporting their results to us, all with the goal of building up to bigger, more successful projects. Here's a regimen I suggest: every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, propose a new task. On the evenings of Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, provide a short report on the success of any tasks we've approved (a single sentence or photo of a finished product might be fine). After two months of this schedule, propose a new regimen. Here's a list of the sort of tasks I have in mind: go on a 30-minute walk, partake in a new snack, eat at a new restaurant, take a photo of a bird, practice Morse code for 20 minutes, tie your shoes in a new way, write stream-of-consciousness for 15 minutes, pick up trash for 20 minutes, call a friend you haven't spoken to in at least a year, make a new playlist, set something on fire, have a conversation with a random person, write a review, email a question to a mathematics professor. For us shareholders, these sorts of proposals will seem incredibly insignificant; we'll need to to keep in mind that this is about establishing a habit of successful behavior in our investment. This is a temporary system that's necessary for the longterm success of the kmikeym project as an investment, and the success of our investment as a human.
abodens3 (73 shares, voted no)
I feel as though voting yes here undermines my previous votes on other 'projects'. Could you possibly hire a coach or mentor that could review your schedule (to ensure you don't overload yourself again) and help you stay on track?
davehayden โ˜•๏ธ๐Ÿ’ฏ (260 shares, voted no)
No. You don't get to say "bankruptcy" and walk away from your commitments to investors. You work with us to restructure your debt. Let's form a working group to sort out which projects still have value to us and which we should let go.
molly โ˜• (9 shares, voted yes)
I agree with Curt. Perhaps approaching new projects as concrete goals with increment steps would be more productive and easier for shareholders to know what they are voting for. This was how the relationship project was set out, wasn't it? Beginning with a shorter term contract with a lot of rules and then evolving.
Medicalmack (20 shares, voted yes)
It seems like you produce amazing quality work when you have time to focus on it. Donโ€™t try to please everybody and be a jack of all trades. Maybe try to fully understand what goes into a project before taking it on. Just a thought :)
rugger ๐Ÿ’ฏ (282 shares, voted no)
Mike, Appreciate your courage in sharing your perceived shame. Like others, I see many of the projects as less failures than learning experiences. Playing the piano is a good example. Maybe it was aspirational or perhaps you didnโ€™t have the right teacher or ongoing motivation. But taking on something as bold as playing the piano would be a challenge for anyone. Thus, a suggestion would be to consider simpler goals. As an example, take two or four piano lessons. Thatโ€™s a goal more easily accomplished. Additionally, you might also consider inviting support on either (a) forming your goals (annual, quarterly, etc.) or (b) in achieving them. I suspect among the many shareholders there are many who would be happy to serve. Almost none of us make significant changes absent trauma, epiphany, or support. Be well.
flebbebe (2 shares, voted no)
I am concerned that this project echoes your 2016 annual shareholder meeting. In it you mentioned moving to a sequential rather than simultaneous model of project completion. Your question is vague: how many project do you hope to spin down? How many do you want to keep? How many hours can you allocate to rehabilitating the projects you choose to keep? Goals should be measurable and actionable. What actions do you take if this question passes, and how will you measure success? This question itself is open-ended; you are echoing year-old sentiments. I agree with davehayden - projects should be pared and high-value projects should be prioritized, ensuring sufficient resources are available to complete them. I would like a similar, but better-defined proposal to refocus your efforts.
RobWilcoxJr (4 shares, voted yes)
I like sprints, and even iterative project definition as in design thinking. Is there a room for an intern to maintain project documentation and updates on this website? Goes to brand.
Pat Castaldo ๐Ÿ’ฏโ˜•๏ธ (118 shares, voted no)
Voting no on this one because real bankruptcies have a plan and are held accountable by the court to meet steps to resolve the fundamental flaws, this definitely feels way more like "giving up without accountability."
Marcus ๐Ÿ’ฏโ˜•๏ธ (225 shares, voted yes)
The error here wasn't the failure to finish these projects - it was in starting too many of them. If a consequence-free bankruptcy is the outcome there's too little counter-incentive to do this again in 2018. I'm a No. I'd rather you spend some time wrapping each of these up in a more formal way, including backlogging some and terminating others.
Mike Merrill
That part about this echoing the 2016 review rings VERY true. When I rewatched that video while working on the 2017 review I thought, WHAT!?! WHY AM I STILL DOING THIS? So this is an effort to be more drastic than year and force change. This isn't about abandoning all previous votes. It's to say that the only projects I will actively work on will be 1) my job at Sandwich 2) My relationship w/ the shareholders via KmikeyM, and 3) the erotic fanfic book. And as much as this vote "lets me off the hook" it's also very difficult. It means letting go of even small project ideas that never got to the stage of shareholder vote. Things like Chess Fight and Nookids and Pot Dads. The idea of just releasing those ideas is uncomfortable. The practical idea of sprints and check-ins with shareholder accountability is fantastic.
dalas verdugo (16 shares, voted yes)
It's better to destroy than create what's unnecessary. - 8 1/2
A J Cole (2 shares, voted no)
Actions have consequences! Hold yourself accountable to the projects you have started. A simple vote should not absolve you of the duties you have bestowed upon yourself. Our generation is drowning in a nightmarish ocean of โ€œinspiration strikes!โ€ and failure-philia. Follow through and be steadfast.
krickeyb ๐Ÿ’ฏ (365 shares, voted no)
I 100% support winding down projects but agree with davehayden, Pat Castaldo, and Marcus on this one. I think the vote as outlined leaves way too much out. How will you wind down each project? Could we get even a basic plan? I'd like to see some accountability as you wind down these projects.
aaronpk ๐Ÿ’ฏโ˜•๏ธ (827 shares, voted no)
I also agree with these comments, so I will have to vote "no" as well. I definitely agree that too many projects means too much stress and never finishing any of them. I can relate to that for sure. But I think a more careful approach to winding these down is needed.
Mike Merrill
Curious if there are specific projects that shareholders voting no are concerned about or if the no vote is more in principle?
Josh Berezin โ˜•๏ธ๐Ÿ’ฏ (654 shares, voted no)
Daveโ€™s metaphor of restructuring debt rather than declaring bankruptcy resonates with me. Letโ€™s see a proposal that pursues that direction.
Mike Merrill
Wow, what a close vote. Here's an amendment: If it swings to yes Iโ€™ll make a full tally of all shareholder projects, organize them by status (complete, incomplete, failed, etc.) and we can figure out which ones should be maintained vs. let go. This means I'll be officially released of all the project ideas swirling in my head (Pot Dads, Nookids, etc) but the shareholder mandates will be revisited.
Marcus ๐Ÿ’ฏโ˜•๏ธ (225 shares, voted yes)
I'd like to volunteer as an appointed "project trustee" to help oversee an orderly liquidation of projects. Mike and I have several years of experience working together on the job and I think that makes me a good candidate to help him facilitate his updated proposal. With this pledge from management, I'm officially switching my vote from No to Yes.
Thomas King (24 shares, voted no)
When I first considered this vote a few days ago, I was a "No" just working on my response. I have to say, though, that this is about the most interesting thread I've seen on the site for a while. Good arguments about, from both perspectives! I'm very nearly swayed to a yes (I waver even as I write), but my gut remains in the nay column. Here's why: Mike is the most curious, open, generative person I know. The act of beginning projects is essential to you. Completion of those projects, even if such a thing were possible, doesn't have to be the goal all the time. My preference would be for you to spend this energy on working through the reasons you feel guilt and dismay at having incomplete projects, rather than removing the projects themselves. Projects can come and go, and you don't owe anyone a sense to tidy completion. But to artificially cut off that gusto to me seems a shame.
rugger ๐Ÿ’ฏ (282 shares, voted no)
I am persuaded by the other comments to vote "No." An orderly liquidation appears is a better solution. AS suggested, prefer to see a listing of projects, status of each, and proposed disposition.