Doing your Own Project 101

Projects 101

Nowadays, most of us can expect to live 20-30 years beyond retirement. Many of us, unretired, have more free time on our hands than people ever did before. Most of us have greater health, more free time and a better standard of living than any members of the human race who have ever lived. Why squander such a priceless gift in front of the TV destroying your health with Cheeto’s, beer and aimless boredom (which by the way, is very harmful to your health and reduces your life expectancy)?

Projects can be a lot of FUN to conceive, plan, organize and above all, execute and live. For anyone who considers “fun” to be something frivolous then how about personal growth and development, learning new skills, acquiring knowledge and while we’re at it: self-esteem and self-discovery? No need to lead a boring life, just let your mind wander at will and dream a bit. Then, get off your keester and get cracking! This little post might help you turn your dream into something real, something to be lived and cherished.

A few considerations to ponder.

Who you are

What you are good at

What you like to do

Your strengths

Your weaknesses (if you’re a guy you don’t think you have any)

Your experience

Your assets

Your dreams, big and small


A project can be anything and any size, it can last a lifetime or an afternoon. It can cost a fortune or it can either be free or make you (or someone else) some money. It can take place on the other side of the world or in your own back yard or town. It can involve the outdoors and require great physical fortitude or it can involve visiting old libraries and reading old dusty books.


One size doesn’t fit all.

I think it’s important that your project be a good fit. If you’ve never sailed then crossing the Atlantic, solo on an 18 foot sailboat, while realizable given enough time and money, probably isn’t a great fit. But perhaps you’ve worked with disadvantaged children all your life and love to travel. Taking a sabbatical leave, or at retirement, joining a charitable organization and traveling to another country to run or assist with a development program might be just the right thing for you. On the other hand, you might consider that something smaller like getting into shape and losing 20 pounds is the most inspiring idea you’ve ever heard of for a project. Other ideas of various sizes: learning a new language, learning to play a musical instrument and giving a concert, climbing a mountain, running a 10 k race in 50 minutes, going on a canoe trip (big or small), taking cooking classes in Italy.

Doesn’t matter what it is.

Projects can be just about anything. That’s the beauty of it. It’s all about YOU and you only have to be turned on by it. It doesn’t have to be beneficial to society or anyone else, it can be public or very private. You are the creator and executive decision maker!

 Getting started.

My wife usually starts with a huge blank sheet of paper and draws bouquets of curly-edged circles that look like fair weather clouds with lines joining them together. In the middle is the project title. Everything she can think of gradually fills the page. Over a period of time she can fill several pages.

A few guidelines to get you going.

So, who are you? Try and be honest here and write down your your aptitudes and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, skills or lack thereof etc. etc. No sense in climbing Kilimanjaro if you hate exercise.

Where are you? Look around, perhaps there’s a project staring you in the face and you didn’t even know it, something close to home or an easy drive away.

What are your strengths? Perhaps you have great powers of concentration or inexhaustible physical endurance or you pick up languages quickly and effortlessly. Whatever your strengths, you might want to capitalize on them.

What are your weaknesses? Don’t have any? Fine. But if you have a health issue, or get seasick then you’ll want to tailor your project accordingly.

What are your assets? You might already have a few things or some background already at hand, acquired in an unrelated way. This could be a social network, special skills, travel experience or some of the gear you might require. It might be money in the bank.

What’s missing? You might want to draw up a list of things and skills, if any, you will need to acquire during the preparation phase. You can work your list as you go along.

Have an end point. This isn’t essential if your project is a lifetime one. However, it’s more easily managed and executed if you can begin with the end in mind.

Nesting projects. You can nest one project within another. Prior to backpacking through the Italian Alps you might want to learn to speak Italian or lose 20 pounds, or both!

Set a time frame. When do you hope to start and finish your project? 10 years from now might seem to be too far away and tomorrow doesn’t leave much time to get ready. Perhaps somewhere between 3 months and 2 years will work for you depending upon the magnitude and expense of your project.


Make it challenging and exciting.

By challenging I don’t mean so difficult you have less than a 1% of succeeding. Remember, this is supposed to be something fun and positive. But, IMHO it should be something that makes you dig down and show some grit, get out of your comfort zone and explore some unknown personal territory. It doesn’t always have to fun to be fun. You should feel excited by your project, maybe even intimidated. In my case cleaning out the garage isn’t a challenge and doesn’t turn my crank so for me that’s a chore that needs doing but hardly a project.


Plan on succeeding. Don’t sabotage your own project. Challenging yes, but don’t make it so hard you are likely to fail. Instead of setting your sights on a solo climb of Mt. Everest perhaps you should look for more modest, yet challenging mountains you feel pretty sure you can climb.

Do it with someone else. The obvious choice here is your spouse or partner. I know a couple who just retired. They are hiking across together across some island of Japan that has a number of temples on it. He has everything on his iPad.

How will your project affect your family? This can be delicate and you probably should talk about it with your spouse. If your project is to run a sub 3-hour marathon you might want to look into how your new all-absorbing lifestyle is going to impact your home life or you might not have one left when you’re finished.

Start today. Jump in, the water’s fine. It doesn’t matter where you start. Pick a piece of the puzzle and start solving it, right now!

Speaking for myself, I have two very big projects on the distant horizon but am not yet at the concrete planning phase, I’m still dreaming and letting vague ideas take shape when I’m out walking around. These important projects will build upon my strengths and draw upon the skills and experience I have already acquired. They turn my crank, intimidate me and are extremely challenging, mentally and physically. I will have to develop new skills, get new gear (yippy!) and I will definitely be sitting down with my spouse to discuss the impacts they will have on her life.

Regarding doing a project as a couple my spouse and I have areas of common interest and share certain values. We can each bring different personal assets to the table. As we approach retirement we would like to get involved with bigger “team projects”, which will be of benefit to the world in some small way. We think globally but try and act locally.

And there you have it. Project 101. What are you waiting for?



2 thoughts on “Doing your Own Project 101”

  1. Merci Neil d’ avoir partagé le fruit de tes réflexions. Un vieux sage a déjà écrit que le plus grand obstacle à la réalisation de soi c’est…soi.

  2. Hey Neil. Inspired by you and our mutual inn-keeper friend, I have a new project I’m starting. That is, completing the 4-season 46 by my 60th birthday, September 11, 2018. That’s another 113 peaks in 54 months. It will require picking up the pace a bit from my first round of 46, which was completed in exactly 46 months. I’m thinking I might need to get a place in the high peaks somewhere!

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