With the start of a new year, I take the time to set my focus for the coming year. I’ve enjoyed this activity as it has slowly evolved over the past four years. It helps me strive to complete things that I think are important or interesting but more importantly it give me focus by allowing me to say ‘no’ to other things.
Here are definitions for the four categories of efforts I undertake.
Goal – Something I want to accomplish that is measurable and relatively continual. e.g. exercise X times per week or decrease sugar consumption by X percent. These are often habits I want to build into my life an my hope is that by doing it for a year, it will stick.
Theme – A central topic for the year – something I can spend time thinking about and take a few concrete efforts towards. e.g. living in community or freedom. These are often abstract ideas that are hard to measure but important to spend time focusing on.
Challenge – Something I want to conquer. Crossing an item off my bucket list. e.g. climb Mr. Everest or learn to tight rope walk. These are binary, I either complete them or I don’t.
Exemplar – (new for 2016) A person that exemplifies something I value and who I want to model habits, process or ideas from. I will spend time learning a bit more about what made them tick and try to put a few of their ideas into practice. e.g. Steve Jobs or Teddy Roosevelt
2016 Goal: Write 50 Blog Posts
I’ve written over 100 blog posts over the last 5 years. Mostly as a way of documenting things I’m thinking about for my own purposes, but sometimes to share them.
I enjoy writing on a public blog because it holds me to a higher standard. I realize people might read it and so I put more effort into it than I would a journal. Sometimes people do actually read it and I always enjoy the conversation that follows. Whether they agree or disagree – I learn something more through the conversation.
This year I got a bit of a taste of success. Of my 15 substantial blog posts, one went viral and racked up over 100k reads – also getting republished on qz.com. I really liked that experience and got a ton of positive feedback.
I’m going to lean into that and practice this skill a bit more in 2016. Along with exploring more topics, I will likely focus some on the craft of writing, learning more about how I can hone my voice and effectively communicate to a large audience through writing.
One post a week should be prove a manageable though challenging volume – the good news is I already have 20 drafts in various stages. Look for more posts on topics like; minimalism, heath (my theme of the year), parenting, product management, running and inevitably some politics (see who my Exemplar is below)
2016 Theme: Health
Heath is an abstract concept to me. I think I can spot its opposite when I see it, but I don’t know that I have a firm definition for its presence.
I already feel heath is an important thing to have, but I want to spend this year defining exactly what it is, how I measure it and what I can do to ensure it is with me for as long as possible.
I hope that in doing more research I will learn about new facets of heath and begin to synthesize them with what I already know. That will allow me to create a more unified perspective that I can begin putting into practice.
2016 Challenge: Run a Sub 2:37 Marathon
Running is probably the thing I am best at from a percentile point of view. I’ve been doing it competitively for over 20 years, have a body well designed for it and have the mental toughness to train and race at a high level.
Because of that, I am really pushing the bar this year. I usually like to strive for being in the top 5-10% at an activity I put time into. Running a 2:37, however, would put me in the top 1% of marathon finishers (top 0.2-0.5% actually) and qualify me for the Boston Marathon with ~30 minutes to spare.
To do it, I will have to maintain an average pace of just under 6 minutes per mile for the whole 26.2 miles.
2016 Exemplar: Benjamin Franklin
The idea for this new category actually came to me last week as I finished his autobiography. I kept coming across practices of his I wanted to borrow for my own life. This seemed like a great way to do that.
Ben was a lot of things, but the one that stands out to me most is his intentionality and drive. He continually pushed himself to be better. From what I can tell, not necessarily as a means of achieving anything, but as an end in itself.
Because of that he went from humble beginnings to a position of much influence. Shoot, he is literally the face on the largest currency amount of the most powerful nation in the history of the world.
This year I will be learning more about him and implementing a few of his practices and ideas. (Air baths here I come…)