#1 – Just do it (or why I wrote a personal manifesto and stopped halfway through)

Ed. note: This is a repost from 2015 as I migrate some posts over to my new blog. 

So back in March I decided that I was sick of declaring I was going to do this or going to do that and never following through. Instead, I was going to put all of my goals and dreams down on paper and share it with someone who could keep me honest. I sat down one night, disconnected from the internet, and started writing.
I wrote down my whys for writing the manifesto. I wrote down my purpose. I wrote down my rules for following the manifesto. And finally, I began to list my goals and dreams.  The end result is below.

I took a few nights to go through the process of writing the manifesto. I wanted to make sure I had all of my bases covered. I wanted to list everything that I could possibly think of that I felt needed improvement in my life (at least at the time), so that I could start checking them off. But as I wrote, something funny happened.

It hit me that while it was great I was writing everything down, it was just another form of procrastination. Another way to keep from doing the actual work, but still feel good about what I’m doing with my life. So I stopped. As you can see, I got through the details on a few goals, but I left the rest blank.  It might be more accurate to say that I started. Instead of describing what I was going to do in painstaking detail, I just started doing it.  I’m happy to say that I’m almost at my 90 day deadline and I’ve made significant progress on several of these goals.

90 Days to Success (Or Something Like It)!

A Personal Manifesto by Justin Schaeffer

*Note: I expect this process to take significantly longer than 90 days, even though I do expect I can make great strides by that point. Patience is going to be key. Keep grinding, every day. Even on the bad days.

Purpose: I want to change. I need to change. I have some specific areas that I want to improve on in my life, and this document is a way to get all of my thoughts out there. The document will describe each area that I want to change, what my drivers are for changing them, how I plan to make improvements (both in a general overarching sense and on a day-to-day basis), and talk about how I can get unstuck if I fail or become unmotivated. I will break each goal down into a S.M.A.R.T. goal with specific actions and deadlines and I will hold myself accountable to those deadlines.

Start Date: March 26, 2015

End Date: June 24, 2015

Rules for following this manifesto:

  1. No Zero Days: I need to make small, measurable steps towards my goals every day.  Every single day, no excuses.  I will try to set myself up to succeed in this by not making my goals overwhelming.  I will stagger goals so that I am never working on too many things at one time. I will give myself one cheat day per week (optional), to ignore certain goals – some goals will need to be worked towards every day to avoid drastic setbacks.
  2. Stay positive: Change is hard enough as it is. It’s damn near impossible if I get negative don’t believe it can happen for me.  Small progress is still progress.  If I encounter a setback, it is important to remember that the only way that’s even possible is if I have been making progress toward my goal. Have a sincere belief in sincere belief.
  3. No complaining: I am deciding to do this, because it is important to me. I love improving, even if it means short-term sacrifice on my end. Even if certain things suck. They will be good in the long run.
  4. 100% all the time: No half-assing things.
  5. It’s okay to get discouraged: That being said, it’s going to be difficult. I’m going to fail at some things. Other things will take longer than expected. I’m going to have bad days. And that’s okay. If I need to take a break that day, it’s okay. I’ll get back to it the next day.  Forgive yourself for being human. I know you expect too much out of other people and expect twice as much from yourself, but that isn’t always reasonable.
  6. Ask for help: As much as this is a personal thing, you’re going to need help. And you have done a good job of surrounding yourself with a lot of great people who are willing to help you. But you won’t get help if you don’t ask for it.
  7. Don’t waste time: Many of these things are going to take a decent amount of time each day to complete.  Things like Netflix, Reddit, Facebook, etc. are going to need to take a back seat. They aren’t productive. It’s fine to partake (even every day), but only if the goals are taken care of.
  8. Don’t be afraid to blow it up: If something is obviously NOT working, ends up leading down a path that doesn’t end in success, or becomes de-prioritized, don’t hesitate to cut it from your life. Do you really have time to waste on something like that?

Staying Motivated

Refer back to message from my best friend:

“That was almost 5 years ago now. I used to have such high hopes and aspirations with what I could offer the world. And they’ve only grown by leaps and bounds since then. I know a lot of people can’t understand why we’re best friends when they first meet us, especially when they meet us separately, but I know you’re very similar in that sense. The personal manifesto you put together last night is impressive, and demanding, but I know you want more out of life so that you can give more back. That’s why I know you can do it. I know you’ll work hard at it. There will be days that you fall off the wagon, and some days I won’t kick your butt to get back on, but the important part, and sometimes the most difficult, is that you do get back on. 🙂 You’re the best best friend I could ask for so I want to see you achieve all that you can. Start kicking ass today, Bambi. :)”



  1. Get more sleep and get up on time.
    1. Why?
      1. Many of my goals are going to require discipline. One of the factors keeping me from being disciplined is the fact that I am tired a lot.  The more rested and alert I am, the better I will be able to tackle what’s in front of me.
    2. Driver: Accomplishing this goal will help me accomplish my other goals.
    3. How?
      1.   Go to sleep every night by midnight, weekends when I’m doing something excluded. This does not mean I need to be asleep at midnight, but by this time, I should turn everything off and be trying to sleep.
      2.   Get up with my first alarm each morning and DO NOT GO BACK TO SLEEP. No snooze button.
    4. Staying motivated: Every day is a chance to be awesome, but I can’t be awesome if I’m asleep in bed.  I won’t reach my full potential of awesome if I don’t get enough sleep.
    5. SMART: This goal is a daily goal. Measurable by getting 5.5-7.5 hours of sleep each night.
  2. Read (or listen to an audiobook. Or both!) every day.
    1. This is general because it applies to both personal and professional goals. I want to keep improving and one of the best ways to do that is by learning.  I want to do this with a mix of professional learning, personal development, and mix in some fiction for leisure as well.
    2. Driver: Reading is going to help me accomplish other goals. It will also make me a more rounded person and I will have more to talk about.
    3. How?
      1. Listen to audio books every day on the drive to work. Even on the days that I don’t want to.
      2. Read at least 10 pages of a physical book or e-book every night.
    4. Staying motivated: You love reading, you dork! Even more than Netflix!
    5. SMART: Listen to an audio book for at least 30 minutes each day. Spend 5 minutes recording observations every day when I get to work. Read 10 pages of a physical book or e-book every night.  Goal is daily. Deadline is every day.


  1.  Exceed expectations at Black Box
    1. Why?
      1. Because I hold myself to too high of a standard not to. Don’t just exceed the company’s expectations, exceed my own.
      2. Because I’ll learn so much more by doing than I ever could by reading.
    2. Driver: Doing well at work can only pay off in the long run for my career. I’ll learn new skills that I can use to run my own company someday.
    3. How?
      1. Start things and don’t stop them until they are done. Make mistakes. Fail. Try again. Take on projects I’m not ready for.  Complete them anyway. Learn the fundamentals.  Find ways to drive more growth. Sustain it. Share my knowledge with others. Listen to those that have knowledge that you don’t (which is everyone).
    4. Staying motivated:
      1.  If certain days are overwhelming, it’s okay. It happens. Take a step back and breathe. Remember why you wanted the job in the first place.
    5. SMART:
      1.     Create a daily to-do list first thing in the morning. Don’t leave until everything is checked off.
      2. Create weekly goals each Monday. Create monthly  and quarterly goals (Khorus). Adjust as necessary.
  2. Build product management skills
    1. Why?
      1. Because I little formal product management training. Trial by fire is great for learning, but it’s important to know the fundamentals. It will help me deal with situations that I am unfamiliar with.  It will help me excel in situations that I have experienced before. It will help me drive change within the company.
    2. Driver: Being a product manager is like being the CEO of the business at the product level. Everything I learn here can help me to run my own business one day.  Until that time, it can help make me the best product manager that I can be.
    3. How?
      1. Take classes. Read the Product Management Desk Reference. Read other product oriented books, even the ones that don’t apply to my current position. Learn agile and scrum. Learn UX principles. Learn selling techniques and marketing principals. Watch webinars. Read blogs.  Ask the other PMs questions.
    4. SMART:
      1. Sign up for and watch 2 webinars per month. If you miss one, watch the recording.
      2.  Read at least 10 pages of the Desk Reference every day until it’s done.
      3. Choose your next book. Search for online classes to take.
  1. Build software management skills
    1. Why?
      1. Most of the things that I want to be involved in – sports tech, AI, space, clean energy – require some sort of product that involves software. Even if I don’t write code, it is important to be able to manage products involving it.
    2. How?
      1. Learn best practices for software management. Agile. Scrum. Lean methods.
    3. SMART:
      1. You ordered books on lean method and scrum. Read them by the end of summer. Take notes.
      2. Continue to work on side-projects that involve some sort of software. Code on your own if you have to.  Implement the practices you learn from the books.
      3. Find an online class about software management. Take it.
  1. Build leadership skills
  2. Build communication skills
  3. Work on a side project every day (within reason)
  4. Find a mentor
  5. Build relationships with great people


  1. Be more outgoing
  2. Make new friends
  3. Build deeper connections with people
  4. Forgive other people for being human. Don’t hold grudges. Don’t judge them for making decisions that you wouldn’t. Don’t hold on to the feelings when they hurt you. Let it go.
  5. Run/do yoga every day
  6. Get on a regular gym schedule
  7.  Learn to play the ukulele

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