2014: Goal, Theme & Challenge

Last year I blogged about a few efforts I had defined for my year and really enjoyed it. I stretched myself a bit, had something to strive for, and had a decent success rate. One of the most surprising benefits was that by explicitly setting a challenge, and knowing I would do this in future years, I had an easier time saying no to other ideas I had. I realized that I could set them as a challenge in the future, and thus felt no guilt that I wasn’t doing anything to achieve them in 2013.

This year I will do the same. I’ve of course learned a bit and will be making a few modifications to the process.

Goal – Something I want to accomplish that is measurable and relatively continual. eg. exercise X times per week or watch less than X hours of TV per week.

Theme – A central topic for the year – something I can spend time thinking about and take a few concrete efforts towards. eg. grow as a leader, rethink what health means

Challenge – Something big and binary that I want to conquer – likely something I’ll have to train for. eg. climb Mr. Everest or surf Mavericks

2014 Goal: Read 24 Books

In 2014 I’m going attempt to read 24 books. 12 fiction and 12 non-fiction.

In 2013 I probably read just over a half-dozen books. Only one was fiction (The Hobbit), the rest were of about various career, parenting or religious topics. So, two dozen books is a decent goal, but not by any means impossible.

Lately, most of my reading has been online; articles, blog posts or social media updates. Those are all great things that I often learned from and enjoy, but they do not provide the same benefits as reading books. Books offer more depth due to their length and the barriers to publishing often produce well edited and more thought through works – though there are many downfalls to the current state of publishing as well.

More importantly, the way I read books tends to be much different than how I read online. I’ve realized that when reading a book I tend to focus much more. While reading articles I often follow rabbit holes, open new tabs and start researching other items. While this is a fine way to read some things, I want to make sure I balance them. Reading allows me to dive deeply into a single topic, to pause to think and to relax more. Reading from paper or e-paper is also easier on the eyes and I’ve found it to be easier to fall asleep at night after reading from one of these as opposed to an lcd screen.

2014 Theme: Bear the Burdens of Others

My theme for 2014 will be bearing the burdens of others.

I have been blessed with excess. I have more than enough money to feed and shelter my family. More than enough to time to have leisure and to pursue hobbies. More than enough health & energy to travel to distant places and participate in exciting adventures.

I am grateful for these things, but being grateful alone is selfish. This year I want to be intentional about further using my excess to help others than need it. To lift up those with nowhere to stand, to be a post for those who need a place to lean in hard times and to offer second chances to those who would otherwise not have them.

2014 Challenge: Complete an Ironman

In 2014 I am challenging myself to finish an Ironman Triathlon.

The race, which usually takes 10-14 hours includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike & 26.2 mile run.

I’ve wanted to do triathlons for a long time. My first one was a Boy Scout camp back when I was about 12. I really enjoyed the mixture of the three sports.

I ran Cross Country & Track in school, so running is my strong leg. I’ve actually never run a full marathon, even though I used to run ~10 miles per day. I’ve never done much distance biking or swimming – but I have a bit of swimming experience from my water polo days and did some road biking when I studied abroad.

My goal will be to finish, but I suspect I won’t be happy being in back of the race. When I used to run competitively I would usually place top 3 for my age group and I’ve even won a few races, so I’ll have to taper my expectations.

2013: Goal, Theme & Challenge – Review

At the beginning of 2013 I wrote about my goal, theme and challenge for the year. I’ve posted a few updates throughout the year but want to take some time now to review them more in depth.

2013 Goal: Create With My Hands

Self Grade: 8/10

Going into the year I believed that there was value in creating things myself and that often they also would better serve my needs and/or last longer than mass produced alternatives.

After building a number of items, I have only strengthened my hold on those beliefs. There is a joy of craftsmanship. Each time I use one of my self-made items I feel a sense of renewed accomplishment.

Here are the five projects I completed this year:

  • Surfboard
  • Cribbage board
  • Sleeping/storage platform for my truck
  • Tool storage dolly
  • Wetsuit glove drier






2013 Theme: Grow As A Leader

Self Grade: 8/10

Just to be clear, I am not scoring my leadership abilities, but rather my efforts this year to grow in them.

Starting early in the year, I immersed myself in a leadership role, taking a step back from most of my individual contributor responsibilities and doubling down on leading teams as a product manager. I of course supplemented this with a few books, many philosophical conversations with mentors and a good bit of experimentation.

I’ve learned a lot about different team dynamics, personality types and one-to-many communication. Though I understood the importance of these before, in theory, I now have a few more notches in my belt and arrows in my quiver.

I suppose this is something I’ll continue to grow in throughout 2014 as I take on a new leadership role – my wife and I are expecting our first child this spring.

2013 Challenge: Surf Mavericks

Self Grade: 0/1 1/1

My rating for this challenge, unfortunately, has to be binary and as of today I have not yet surfed a big wave at Mavericks.

That said, since this was my challenge, I am using my discretion to make an adjustment.

Mavericks typically breaks during the winter season between November & February. Although I have prepared, I have not yet, in the first half of this winter’s window, had an opportunity that I felt was satisfactory to attempt to conquer the giant.

So in the last days of the year, rather than hastily rushing into a dangerous situation in non-ideal circumstances, I decided to extend my cutoff to the end of this winter season. If I surf Mavericks before the season is over, I will consider the challenge complete – though I might dock myself some points for the late delivery.

I will of course loop back and update this post.

UPDATE: On January 25, 2014 I surfed Mavericks. Shy of a month late, but a success nonetheless.


I did pretty well at these efforts this year which tells me I need to reach a little more next year. I’ll be reflecting for a few days at which point I’ll set my 2014 items.

Surf Mavericks: Update 6

Today was almost the day.

Over the last month I’ve gotten back in surfing shape. I’ve been surfing a few times a week so my arms are strong again. I’ve been running & doing my breath drills so my lungs are too. I even took a few poundings in OH surf just to make sure my nerves were solid.

I got the automated email last night. The report showed 10-15 ft waves at Mavericks. My exact target range. As I took my bright yellow gun down from its wall racks the excitement and nervousness of a two year goal began to set in.


I  got up early and drove down early to see what the conditions were like. A solid groundswell, sunny morning and offshore wind combined to make what seemed like the perfect day.

As I drove the coast I saw hints at what to expect. I had that feeling in my gut I used to get before running races. A combination of nervousness & excitement. A sense of calm that makes you question if you have enough energy to do what you’re about to try. But that is a finely tuned body saving energy for when it is most needed.

I got to Mavericks and watched for a bit. Unfortunately the tide wasn’t quite right. I didn’t see any successful rides during the half hour I was there so I decided to surf Ocean Beach instead so I could get something in before work.


Ocean Beach in the 12ft+ range is no joke. It is slightly less dangerous than Mavericks though – less rocks, more onlookers, much closer to land and something I’m familiar with.

The downside is the paddle – there is no channel. Making it to the outside on big days can be a challenge. It keeps the line up thin though.


I decided this would be a good chance to test out Hail Mary in some decent sized surf.

I suited up, gave her a proper wax and counted waves on the sand waiting for a lull in the sets. I figured if I timed it right & paddled fast enough I could get out without taking to many on the head.

The trade off with Hail Mary, like all gun surfboards, is that the extra foam that helps with paddling hurts when duck diving. In fact, despite my best efforts I could not even get the board even slightly underwater. After my first failed attempt, I realized that my best bet was to turtle. Thankfully the speed paddling made up for the difference and I was able to get out without any problems.

Eventually a wave came with my name on it. I paddled in and as it stood up I realized that I was about to learn how Hail Mary rode in the least low-risk situation one could wish to be in. I stood up and we dropped down the face. A gust from the offshore wind raced up the face sending spray over the back.

I could see the chop in the wave but all I could feel was butter. 10lbs of foam and fiberglass cutting through the 51 degree water making for one of the fastest and smoothest waves of my life.

Tomorrow is another day. I’ll be up early.

Arm Strength: 12ft+ OB

Breath Holding: 4:06 record – 3:06 current

Days to Go: 15

Times surfed on Hail Mary: 2

Resting Heart Rate: 64