New Year’s Resolutions are Stupid and Detrimental: Seriously!

By Donald R Dodson, Jr
So, a lot of you have been talking about New Year’s resolutions, and I thought I would put in my $2.52 worth. Plain and simple, New Year’s resolutions are stupid, ineffective and, ironically, detrimental to achieving your goals.

Here is why.

The whole concept is kind of naïve and short-sighted, really. You shouldn’t need a special date to do something. It’s not like that particular orbital movement imbues you with any special powers on that day only.  Is a resolution, umm, resolved on January 2nd less likely to succeed? I think not. In fact, you are ALREADY too late! Like they say about planting trees and saving money. The best time to do that was yesterday.

Why do we think that making a resolution on New Year’s is going to create some sort of motivation rising unbidden from the depths of our souls to make us do the thing we haven’t been successful doing in the last 20 fucking years? Your motivation and the resulting outcome are going to be just as imperfect as last year You’re really going to have to do a little bit better than that this year. Maybe we can do better is we do it the right way.

Let’s also be clear, you really should take issue with any kind of decision that is made after a night of revelry and bad life choices that involve eggnog mixed with other questionable substances.

Now, this may sound like I’m negative. I’m not negative, I’m just realistic and maybe a little bit nihilistic, well and a smart ass, too. Let’s face it, many of these resolutions ARE hard. These are the things that at any normal time we’re never successful in accomplishing. It’s probably why we hope, against all hope that THIS YEAR we will make it happen.

Let’s look at how we might actually achieve these goals.

Your Resolutions kinda suck

A common issue with these yearly resolutions aimed at changing our lives (or businesses) is that they generally suck! They really are the vaguest, general goals ever. I mean granted, our first one usually involves waving off eggnog-based beverages for the foreseeable future. But, “I am going to lose weight, eat better, and go to the gym” Or. “I am going to focus on my business more” Seriously? WTF does “more” or “better” mean?

Set Clear, Measurable, and Sustainable Goals

I see many of my business colleagues in the crowds shaking their heads already. They see problems with these goals. They’re not very measurable and lack a purpose. And while not all goals have to be strictly measurable, it really does help to have some sort of reasonable measuring stick as well as a larger “why”. Maybe put an actual, reasonable and sustainable number and time period to it. So, instead of going to the gym more, it becomes “I am going to go to the gym X-times per week,” Instead of “I am going to do better with social media”, you put a number and frequency to the posts you will make.

In the gym example especially, it also helps use a longer time span (with a proportionate increase in repetitions) to make success more likely.  Ex. six times every two weeks is easier to manage with our busy schedules than three times a week. This method makes early success attainable and reduces “goal-burnout” Often, people are successful for the first two weeks, they’re exercising every frickin day. But that’s not sustainable. They quickly tire of the all-consuming routine and before long they stop it altogether.

Also, in terms of your bigger, longer-term goals it helps to break them into shorter milestones. Instead of saying you are going to lose 50 pounds, say you are going to lose 5 or 10 pounds per month. Sounds attainable, right? That’s the point! You are going for sustained success! The more consistent success you have the more you’ll continue the activity and it helps create a habit (more on habits in a sec). You can also adjust that goal upward as you become more successful if appropriate.

The Why is Important, too.

It’s also especially helpful to have an overarching purpose – a “why”. Granted, “not dying” is a pretty good “why”, but maybe you are looking to being there for your kids or partner or your pet hedgehog, Stabby. A “Why” is also helpful for habits, which is the next strategy.

Habits: It bears Repeating

Habits! Another significant strategy, and also more difficult for most, is creating habits. A habit is a “settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” We have a bunch of habits that we do every day. The problem is (waves hand like a Jedi) “those aren’t the habits you are looking for” We want to add new habits! And, if that habit doesn’t exist in the first place, (like already going to the gym or posting social media) fabricating one out of, out of thin air is not going to be easy.  

Simplistically, habits are about satisfying a craving for a “reward” through an action/response. They are built over long periods of time.  Typically, a habit forms after 30 days of repetition. A key to the habit-forming component is the reward. This has to be something you can prioritize so that it creates that craving and makes you want to do it again to get the reward. You are hungry so you crave food, the response is to eat. Craving is satisfied because the reward is you are full.

But what reward do you get for posting on social media, or going to the gym? This is where that larger goal – the “Why” can be helpful. Because many of our more challenging goals and their associated habits aren’t based on primal needs like food or sex, etc (or they are not based on reducing them). They are based on higher-level rewards like self-esteem, accomplishment, etc. So, you really need to work harder to create that positive connection to such a reward. There are also techniques like habit-stacking where you take an existing habit and piggyback off that. To be fair, this merely a superficial explanation, and I am a humble entrepreneur. I suggest you dig deeper to better understand how to form good habits.

Resolutions Can actually Hurt Your Goals

I did mention how I felt that New Years Resolutions could be detrimental. We put a lot of pressure on that commitment we made on New Year’s Day, and often we fail. This failure breeds a lot of negativity: guilt, diminishment of self-esteem, anxiety as we struggle to work through often poorly constructed goals.

Adding to this is the pressure we create when we publicly state our resolutions on Social media, in front of our peers, coworkers, and family. In some cases, we feel that this accountability will help us to succeed, and, indeed there is some merit to that. As anyone who has had an accountability partner or group knows, that peer pressure is effective. However, the thing is, most people (including yourself, let’s be honest) expect you to fail, because, they themselves feel the same way about these New Year’s Goals because it is what their own experience has been, as well.

Perhaps it would be more effective to just make it a normal life choice or goal. Let’s not attach any special significance to it. Partly this is a matter of personal choice or preference. My bet is that no one really needs extra anxiety in their lives. Remember the goal and the process of achieving it is supposed to be a positive one. Set a clear measurable goal, with sustainable milestones and create habits that support that goal, so you can continue to succeed. Also, don’t wait to start a goal. Start it when it needs to be done.

Regardless I DO wish you success in your next 365 days around the sun. And, remember, that eggnog and poor life choices will always be there, waiting.

I Love Badasses

I love badasses.

Badasses get shit done. Period. Its part of their make up. I see it a lot in creative folks and entrepreneurs. They are consummate problem solvers because they have the desire to do a thing. It might not be pretty. It might not be perfect, but it gets DONE!

I personally know of craftsman who’ve made do with what they have. Cobbling shit together because they couldn’t yet afford to invest in a forge, or a proper torch or a pottery wheel. But the desire to create pushed them to make do.

We can’t always start with the proper tools, but that doesn’t mean we can’t START! Don’t fall victim to the “I can’t because…” trap. Instead, think about what you CAN do to make it happen. Remember that most of this isn’t new. It’s been done – in some form — for centuries.  People have been painting, smithing, weaving and selling for millennia. They just did not have all the cool shit we have today.

It’s really a mindset of sorts. The “Make shit happen somehow” mindset. The inspiration and the information IS out there. The whole of the internet is a vast treasure trove of badassery. Reach out to someone who knows a little more. Don’t be afraid to get inspiration from other crafts and fields. That different perspective will inspire new ideas or ways of looking at a problem. (which is really what being creative is about anyway).

More on this later. But, for now, lets channel that badassery and Make Shit Happen!

Launching a Custom Leather Video Tutorial Series and other updates

So, I finally (it took like a year) got my crap together and have started pulling together a custom leather video tutorial series that explain how to make a basic leather pouch. And, while its not a very large pouch, the idea is that many of the concepts, skills, and techniques one would need to learn leather making are covered at a basic level.

Stitching an item by hand!

Ideally a person would have at least a pretty good idea how to make a bunch of different things after watching these episodes and using the techniques. I am still editing the other videos (and learning some basic video-editing in the process), but I should be able to drop an episode every week or so.

Additionally, I plan on some basic videos on things like tools, leather dyeing, leather in general, and some other techniques and projects as I figure out what people want to know about. Here is the first episode of the custom leather video tutorial series. This one features some basic about selecting and using leather for a project:

UPDATED: Here is Episode 2 which discusses using a patterns and cutting leather. I cover the basics of using a pattern and some design stuff. I also cover cutting leather and share some tips, techniques and tools that make things easier.

In an other angle, I am considering operating a Patreon or Patreon-like page so that supporters have options rather than just buying items or can support at a level they are more comfortable with. Ideally, a steady stream allows me to focus on the more artistic and fun aspects of my business. More on that after I am done polling my audience to determine if this has enough interest.

I will be just looking to add more content, well, everywhere. More content in my blog, videos, facebook, etc. More items in my etsy shop, exploring additional e-commerce sites (maybe Amazon Hand-made?) as well as some a store on here, as well. I am already collaborating with some folks on content. More on that as it develops.

Lastly, collaboration is something I hope to amp up as well, and working on collaborating with some other entrepreneurs to team up to create awesome products that benefit us both!

One Thousand Stitches

1000 Stitches

1000 Stitches

One thousand stitches. Yup, that’s a lot. Not only is that the average amount of stitches that is needed to assemble, by hand, one of our messenger bags, but it is also symbolic.

It symbolizes the care with which we craft EVERY product we make. It encapsulates the attention to detail we put into our craft. It also symbolizes the first steps in the journey that we start with every custom leather good, especially the more creative ones.

Because, except for the simplest of our creations, hundreds or even thousands of small actions are required to create our items. We make our designs, often totally from scratch, custom-sized to fit the needs of the customer. The leather must be selected, laid out and carefully cut. Tooling (also known as leather carving) adds considerably to the time spent on a project. Then the edges are beveled and burnished before we can even start to hand dye, which alone is several steps. Every stitch hole is made by hand, too. Suffice it to say there are many steps the journey toward a complete bag. And we love every one of them.

You see, I revel in the craft AND the resulting creations we produce. Sure, it’s rewarding to see a completed custom leather product through our camera lens. It’s even more rewarding to hear from the customer how happy they are with the bag you made for them. Knowing that the hours of work makes someone happy, satisfied or even giddy is one of our favorite things.

But, for us, the actual process is also an immensely satisfying thing. It speaks to the truly rewarding feeling you get in your soul of creating something out of (almost) nothing: Crafting something that is both useful and beautiful. Making something that is not only “made well, but well made”. Arguably that is the same thing, but I feel deeply it is not. Something can be constructed to satisfy the requirements of the purpose it serves, but it’s about the actual work and processes that go in to that object. It’s the “how” and not just the result. The loving care that goes into each step. THAT is a huge part of it for me.

Many creatives share this perspective. The process is an integral aspect of the art itself. Certainly, part of it is merely a demonstration of a skill. But to me and many other artists I speak with, the process IS the art, too.

The point here is that the artistic process, the — “craft” of it– is an inherent value of what we make. People want to know that someone, has spent a great deal of time and attention to make something. That is a value we offer. You know that everything we make is made by hand. That every step in the process is almost “curated” as it were.

No one talks (or even cares) about the work or the craftsmanship, or even the art that goes into making say, a toaster, a computer, or even a car.  And, maybe we should care about that. But we often don’t.

Not everyone will agree, of course. We all value certain things and not others. That’s ok. Many of our custom leather goods and bags are an investment, but that is exactly when and why you should care. That quality is not just the creative energy that goes into it. It isn’t just the experience that the crafter adds. It means it IS well made. It will last longer than something made out of PVU , or sub-standard leather and whipped out on a machine in a little longer than it took you to read this article. Sure, you paid a lot less, but then you get less.

But, that’s not how we roll. We only create quality, handcrafted, custom leather goods. So, if you think that is your bag (pun intended) and it makes you feel good knowing you are owning a quality item, then you definitely should talk to us!

Welcome to Dodson Designs Handcrafted Leather blog

Welcome to Dodson Designs’ inaugural post. This blog will be about many things. It will, of course be about the creative handcrafted leather goods we craft and leather in general. We will discuss creation, construction, techniques, and even tutorials. I will share my builds and my process, too. You will see what goes into making our products.

 Handcrafted Leather Vertical Messenger Bag
10 x12 Vertical Messenger Bag

But I will also share the passion that goes into what I do. I love to create things and make people happy from that finished outcome (Nothing beats a great testimonial!). In the end I am an artist and creator first; leather just so happens to be my medium of choice.

You will also discover that I love making not only well crafted, handmade leather bags, but also creative “geeky” items in the steampunk, cosplay and “Renn Faire” genres. Some of my items are just for that other cross genres and can be used every day! First and foremost, I love art that is practical.

Custom Hand-tooled Journal Handcrafted Leather construction
Custom Hand-tooled Journal

I am also going to discuss the business of being a working artist and a veteran. I am often in the position to help and coach others in building their business when business is not their thing. Artisans aren’t always good business people, so I will share articles and such on social media, marketing, and tech that makes the business part a little easier and a little less complicated.

Well, hell, the reality is this blog is going to be a lot of different sh*t. Oh, yeah, I might use some strong language from time to time. I am a veteran and swearing is in our blood. Seriously though. I hope to share knowledge I have gained, promote what I do and the cool shit others make, too. So with that, enjoy! And go make good stuffs!