The Project Equation

A year ago, I jotted this down at the coffee shop. At the start, only drawing boxes trying to be playful. Then, I decided to up it a notch and create the equation for the perfect project. Or, use it for anything: career moves, moving to a far off land, going on vacation. I became ambitious. But what do frameworks really accomplish? Some say, “The framework is everything.” While others shout, “Meaningless.” I fall somewhere in the middle. But looking at the macro isn’t necessarily bad.

Personally, I believe life philosophies are good to have. The picture header is my recently drafted equation. Feel free to adjust using a factor of N to fit your needs (plugging math works too):

Conviction (Measured by, Is it a hell yeah?).

It’s a great article by Derek Sivers, short and to the point. As a creative, you should never start a project unless you truly believe in it. Why? Because all projects take infinitely longer than you think they should. Always multiple by a factor of two for projects on the home front. Painting the kitchen. Wallpapering the bathroom (Yes, wallpaper almost ended my marriage. Small bathroom. Little green leaves. Hours of life gone that can never come back). Putting up crown molding. Hanging cabinets. Or, even the personal projects with a grand vision. Writing a book. I wrote an entire post on this one. Whatever the goal, you will get to a point in said project when you want to pack it in and quit. Conviction makes you fight to the end. It’s what makes a project great when you get tired.


I put a plus sign in the picture/drawing, but it should be a minus. How much risk are you willing to take? If you write a book, perform in a play, or make a stump speech, are you willing to risk public humiliation? If you want to stand up to your boss on a project, is it worth considering a career limiting move? If you’re starting a business, how much of your savings are you willing to put on the line? To me, Shark Tank is about taking a controlled risk. There are some sharks that want you to be all in on your project/business (Mark Cuban). Others look for those who are managing two jobs at once. They want the hustle (Barbara). And others in the tank only look for the return. I think we know who this is.

In all of our choices, there is always a risk. Yes, conviction needs to outweigh risk. It almost needs to tip the scales. Don’t think lady justice and the balanced scale. Think stack of bricks on one side of the scale and a feather on the other.


A project has to create value. If that’s making a job change, the salary/benefits/time must be greater than the risk. If you leave XYZ company, you are leaving a power base and network behind. Or, if you’re selling a product someone has to be willing to pay for it. Perhaps, in a future utopia, everyone will have the same benefits, wear the same clothes, believe in the common good, and work for hire. But we’re a little ways from that utopia coming true. I love Star Trek too. But they even had a host of bad guys pop up now and then.


Ben Franklin said it best, you can have all the money in the world but what is time? It is the most precious resource we have. He constantly talked about it.

“Lost time is never found again.” 

Ben Franklin

Or, take this one:

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.” 

From the same Founding Father

Seneca also says it best:

“There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn.” 

From the Shortness of Life


Your life is one big mission statement. What is yours? Does the project fit with your life philosophy? Do you even have one? Or, are you going through the motions? As I get on in years, I ponder this one often. Because all of the money in the world may not matter if it’s not what you want to do in life.

So, use your own weighting scale and give the equation a go. Then again, just thinking about this stuff can be more than meaningful.