First goals and now targets. This smacks nastily of play mirroring work. Let’s take that and exercise it a little through a weary narrative jog. Last summer*, most of my targets were viscerally augmented to the broad suit backs of my temporary employer. Such was my calamitous state of work/life balance that the opportunity of ‘clearing angsty thirty foot hungry alligators from a Florida swamp‘ would have been met with a cost/benefit analysis something like ‘so similar work in a warmer climate with more reasonable clients, where do I sign?’

Targets are terrible things. Especially if you’re a civil engineer. As you’re merely building them as incentives for the defence industry. In the mostly pointless world of what I do, they represent a meaty slice of a vocational pizza topped with KPIs, CoEs, SoWs and YHTBFJs**. Not that I’m complaining because through no obvious effort on my part, stuff that many people seem to find difficult is scarily easy for me. Of course I have to work hard, but not because this stuff is actually difficult to do. There’s just a lot of it.

You may have noticed that, at no time, has any effort been made to articulate exactly what that is. This isn’t me being coy or clever – it is genuinely because there’s no easy way to explain it. Even to myself. I know what it’s called but that’s not the same as what is it. Many moons ago, when we first moved out here, my efforts at school-gate communication elicited the knowledge that almost everyone had a proper job be that fireman, farmer or farrier. My best response was essentially a hand waving generic – speaking of great deeds evoked mainly by shouting at people.

So we’ve established what it isn’t. Only not really because what it is isn’t is how I see me spending the rest of my ever diminishing days. There’s a beautiful phrase about middle age which essentially talks of “Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way” (point for artist and title). Let me share what this target fixation isn’t one more time, and that’s a middle aged crisis because such angst would suggest one has ever pupated from mental puberty.

Any time I’ve ever felt secure in a job is the trigger for boredom followed by extremely bad mannered disruptive behaviour. Get out before being thrown out. And I have absolutely no fucking interest at all in the kind of career plan where some Apprentice-meme mutates into ‘in two years I shall be world dictator, but first: this filing‘. God if you want to be disappointed, look out of the window or into the mirror. Don’t set yourself up for failure; we are already over-burdened by a society explaining we’re wholly inadequate in terms of what we buy, the way we bring up our children, the house we live in and the car we drive.

So if we’re going to have some kind of target, let’s at least make it something we might actually enjoy doing. It’s not riding bikes – strange as that may sound, because riding is a dirt filler which papers over the cracks on an ordinary life. It’s not a way of life, it’s an escape from it. And there’s no target that gets hit by punting myself out as a gun for hire until old age or cynicism or hitting some mythical number cries that enough is really enough.

It’s finishing a book. If we were looking at a left-to-right sequential view, it’s about starting it. Or even working out what it might be. But in four months time this contract ends and something will start. For four weeks, everything that pays the bills and provides some gossamer wisp of self worth shall be cast aside. To see if there’s anything in my head that might make sense on paper.

Let’s save ourselves some tedious rhetoric and assume the answer to all of these questions is ‘you’ve got to be fucking joking‘ 1: have you any idea what kind of book that might be? 2: will it be finished? 3: will it make you any money? 4: do you have the mental discipline to sit in front of an empty screen every day and 5: will you have an enviable set of excuses of why the lack of any discernible output shall be considered a wild success? Oh sorry the answer to the last one is, of course, absolutely.

My mate Dave has written two books; an electronic one he’s published himself, and a second that a proper company is currently making out of real paper. For which he appears to have gainstayed any actual paying employment for the thick end of two years. Although this is simply explained by some supposed ‘research‘ that had him gallivanting to all corners of this sceptred isle to go ride his bike. But ballsy as hell – of that there is no doubt.

Google tells us that an average book is 60,000 words. That’s 2000 a day then. Creating thousands of words isn’t the problem, they might even be good words but navigable sentences is clearly going to be a big issue. And that’s before there’s any proper writing thing around plot, research, structure, narrative, etc. Still I’ve started a few so eventually I’ll have to finish one, because we all know that everyone has a book inside them. And frankly that’s probably where it should stay.

To be honest, writing this down and publishing it to an uncaring Internet is merely a device to keep me honest. It’s nothing more than a public admission of failing to follow convictions that make perfect sense until eating becomes a priority. I’m at an age were forgetting difficult words such as large woody handled objects separating inside and outside become finger clicking, its-coming-to-me, arrrghh-you-know-the-THING daily trial. If I don’t get my shit vaguely together, I’ll be left with nothing more than electronic spittle.

Worse case I can find my muse in dusty summer singletrack*** and revel in a world where alarms happen to other people and emails are something to be welcomed.

There I’ve said it now. No idea what happens next.

* Chronological. In no way meteorologically differentiated from winter by anything other than a slightly elevated rain temperature.

** Don’t ask. I only made one of those up. If was the one with F in it.

*** Which may involve a move to Spain.

4 thoughts on “Targets

  1. Mike

    Just to prove I’m a child of the ’50’s and paid attention at the management meetings…

    Pink Floyd – Dark Side of The Moon, Track 3, at running time 5:40 if anyone wants to check. This album just keeps getting more and more relevant as I get older.

    KPI – Key Performance Indicator, CoE – Centre of Excellence, SoW – Statement of Work(s), YHTBFJ – You have to be flipping* joking. * Substitute Anglo Saxon epithet of choice.

    Love the blog. There has to be a book in there somewhere. Write what you know, as they say.

  2. Alex

    I think it’s a bit late for that 😉 Mike – I’m impressed. However, if I do write what I know, it’d be quite a short book!

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