Andy Gott

Walking over a wooden bridge to the beach with a surfboard

Being Better in 2014

31 Dec 2013

2013 has been a good year, the latter half of which has been all about Fieldwork, as you’d expect in the first year of a new business.

We started Fieldwork at the end of 2012 and, at the time, were pretty cautious about the whole thing. Loz and I were both doing well as separate one-man operations, and didn’t feel the need to put everything into Fieldwork. A year ago, we were only spending two or three days a week at the studio (although working remotely a lot too).

Over the course of this year, though, Fieldwork has grown into something. We’ve been lucky enough to work almost exclusively on projects that we really care about, collaborating with great people and organisations. We brought Sadie and Ed into the fold—wonderful and talented people who are going to bring a whole new dimension to Fieldwork in 2014. Above all, we did what we set out to do: make interesting stuff, make it well, and have fun doing it. I’m proud of what we’ve done this year, and excited about what we’re going to do next year.

I’ve let a lot of things fall away in the past year too, things that are important to me. I feel as though I’m lacking balance. I’m less fit than I’ve been for a while, and I don’t feel I’ve initiated enough projects, either for fun or for change (not that these are mutually exclusive). When I’m striking a good balance I’m better in lots of ways: I’m more productive, optimistic, creative, sociable, content, and generally calmer with more measured responses. These things have started to slide recently.

2013 has been great, but I think I can be better in 2014.

Increase Self Awareness

Being aware of where I’m lacking and what isn’t working for me really helps, and I’ve been rubbish at that this year.

A couple of years ago I got into a short-lived habit of using 750words to write a private, daily stream of consciousness. I found it useful in the same way that meditation is useful—it helps to surface and clarify underlying thoughts and feelings, which is calming and helps with direction and decision making.

This time, I won’t make myself write 750 words. I’ll just do whatever comes naturally, then round up with a short daily list of things that are making me happy, sad, stressed, tired, energetic or excited. Who knows, the recorded data might become useful over time (maybe there’s a project idea in there somewhere).

I find I feel better, get more done, and maintain more balance if I regularly meditate (I’m certainly no expert at this—headspace helps) and stretch daily. I have no idea why stretching works, but more supple seems to equal more energy. A bit like fresh air and exercise, I guess.

Have Purpose

I never feel like I’m doing enough to make things better. Despite having worked almost exclusively on social and environmental projects with Fieldwork this year, I’m constantly nagged by the scale of the world’s problems, how broken the current system is, and the fact that I never seem to have enough time to do anything about any of it.

Our system of education is desperately broken, people can be surrounded by agriculture yet starving, we consume pathologically, and many feel utterly helpless to change any of this. These things make me sad, angry, and guilty all at the same time.

I think I can have the most impact working on bottom-up change—grass roots projects and movements that empower people and networks to build a better world—and I need to be more involved with this stuff.

Balance Purpose and Happiness

That said, I’m aware that focussing too much on a sense of purpose can be counter-productive. Having fun is important. I have a tendency to feel guilty about spending my time and energy on things that seem like they have no greater purpose than fun, and I really shouldn’t. After all, the more fun people have making stuff, the more likely they are to do something to change the world (more on that in a moment).

Also, there are a bunch of things that I know make me happy, and which I haven’t made much time for recently: surfing, snowboarding, cycling, reading a good novel, travel, regular meditation and stretching to name a few. Without that balance I become less effective at everything else, so I’m going to fix it.

Making is Cool

I’ve always loved making things, which is why I do what I do professionally. I think that when people enjoy making and have a sense about things in the world that need to be better, combined with skills and confidence in the idea that they can affect change, they’re likely to have some impact.

Someone recently asked me why Fieldwork don’t shout about working pretty much exclusively on social and environmental projects. The answer is that we don’t want that to be our message, we just want it to be part of our DNA. Our message—if we have one beyond just making things—is that you should make stuff because you’re excited about it, like you used to, with lego or toilet roll tubes. It’s taken me a long time to realise that this, in and of itself, is purposeful.

I want to get more involved with this. I’m not sure how yet, but I’m now an Apps for Good “Expert” (yes, they use the term loosely), and that seems like a good place to start.

Write and Publish

Publishing thoughts is a good way to get them in order, sense check ideas, and maybe have a few friends read and react to them. I don’t know whether it’s better to commit to posting on a regular basis or to post only when I feel I have something to say. Probably the latter. See, this works.

I’ve never really been comfortable with having a website with my name in the URL. It’s always felt like there’s too much ego in it, or something. I’ve done plenty of writing before now, but it’s always been somewhat anonymised behind a business name. It’ll be interesting to see what impact, if any, writing at this URL will have on me.

I can feel the narcissism taking hold already. You can all expect signed photos of me next Christmas.

Enjoy This Now

I can be easily distracted by the future. Building something longer term certainly has its place, and is important to me as Fieldwork grows, for example, but I think it’s a massively oversold idea. As a general rule things tend to work out better for me when I focus on enjoying the present.

Which reminds me, I will surf next year. It’s been too long.