No More Forever Projects

It took me a long time to see past forever projects.

I told myself that making promises gave beginnings gravity. I labeled my newsletter a “lifelong project” not long after I started it. I called /mentoring a “movement” the day I announced it. Commitment marked a project as something worth talking about, I thought. This was how I would give my ideas escape velocity.

Escape velocity came, but at a cost. No amount of attention could spur perpetual motion. Once I’d set every expectation of permanence, disappointment loomed and glowered; inevitable.

Eventually, I started asking myself: why am I promising permanence? The answer crept up on me: because permanence is better than nothing. Without the momentum of obligation, I didn’t trust myself to begin anything in earnest.

The thing is, it never worked. The half-life of obligation is short; the half-life of guilt is long. Promises never saved one of my side projects, but they clogged many nights and weekends with the gunk of regret. Something had to change.

My friend Jamie Wilkinson once told me about a decision he’d made. No more forever projects, he said. From now on, every project is one-time-only. Treat beginnings like endings: celebrate them, document them, let someone else pick up where you leave off. If the project’s worth repeating, there’s nothing to say you can’t still be the standard-bearer. But at least it’s a choice. By ending well, you give yourself the freedom to begin again.

These days, all my projects start as experiments. No forceful promises, no forever projects. Gravity seeps into the things that stick around.