2019 Focus: Long-Suffering

With the start of a new year, I take the time to set my focus for the coming year. I believe that by being selective about where I direct my energy, I can achieve results that are exponentially greater than if I split that energy across many different goals.

More details about the process are in this blog post and you can review the results from past years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 & 2018).

2019 Theme: Long-Suffering

My theme for 2019 is long-suffering.

This is the first full year of my newest sabbath cycle, of which overarching vision is that of preparing for my calling. That means my next six years will involve undertaking a lot of hard work, that might not always be directly rewarding or obviously contributing to the long term work I want to accomplish.

With that in mind it seemed appropriate to start off by focusing my attention on the theme of patience, since I am going to be waiting for at least six years. I liked the word long-suffering a bit better than patience though as it seems both more active and also more appropriate for my current lot.

I find it interesting that long-suffering is closely related to the words patience and passion, from the Latin pati. Though we use those three words in very different ways today, they all have their origins in meaning about bearing a burden, enduring an experience or carrying a weight. Their meanings lie in the idea of caring so deeply about something that you are willing to sacrifice for it. An apt definition for my case.

This year will be centered around learning to extend my horizon of delayed gratification from years to decades.

2019 Challenge: Fasting in the Wilderness

For my challenge this year I’m going to walk into the backcountry, somewhere in the mountains near me, find a comfortable spot and sit there for an extended period of time, on the order of 2-3 days (definitely not 40), without food, any entertainment, company, etc. Just me, my clothing, a tent, some water and a few ‘break glass’ emergency items.

This challenge fits nicely with the theme of long-suffering on a micro level as I will be probably be suffering a good bit as I sit there without comforts for an extended period. It also likely fits with the theme of long-suffering on a macro level as I think it will be a good time to clear my head, think longer term about the future and envision all of the things that are motivating my present.

The idea of my yearly challenge is to push myself to do something new. To grow myself by introducing new types of stress, seeing how I handle those, then attempting to reflect on the experience and walk away better. I’ve actually done something similar to this previously though, so I will likely push the intensity a bit in order to make it a challenge that stretches my comfort zone.

I intentionally kept this challenge intense but short as I’ve realized that a lot of my previous challenges turned into big projects. Last year’s challenge was essentially creating a new blog from scratch, which would have taken me dozens of hours. I currently don’t have capacity for any more big ongoing projects though, hence the contained nature of this challenge.

2019 Habit: Minimizing Digital Entertainment

I wrote last year about a secret goal I was tracking in case I made it an official focus later. I decided to do that.

I will be attempting to decrease the amount of time I spend digitally entertaining and distracting myself. Last year I watched 52 movies, streamed 5 seasons of TV shows, played 1/4th of a video game and also watched a handful of sporting matches. In total that was probably ~200 hours spent over the course of the year, or ~4 hours per week.

Sure, I learned some things during some of that time. But mostly it was a distraction, a chance to focus my attention on something other than what was in front of me. And though my four hour average pales in comparison to the average American, who logs around 35 hours of TV per week, I think I can bear to decrease it nonetheless. I suspect the cohort I’m aspiring to count myself a part of spends closer to zero hours than 35 entertaining themselves.

This habit fits with the theme of long-suffering as I am looking to spend more of my time patiently investing now towards a future I hope to someday see. Entertainment, in contrast, is often reaping time for enjoyment now. It comes at the cost of being able to spend that time investing in the future. I don’t think it is altogether negative, but it is something I can bare to cut down on.

My goal is to drop to 2 hours per week on average. I am leaving some time in because I do really enjoy movies as a way to relax, especially on airplanes, and have been using video games as a way to help deal with the dark, cold, wet winters of Seattle. However, cutting my digital entertainment time in half from last year would mean I had 100 extra hours to spend on other things over the course of the year which would be immensely valuable. I suspect that at the same time, the 100 hours of entertainment remaining might be even more enjoyable due to its scarcity. I doubt I’ll spend much time on movies below a RottenTomatoes score of 90 with the precious little time I have.

I will keep track of my weekly totals and look at how many weeks I stay under 2 hours and also my average for each quarter. I’ve found that the combination of short term and long term goals is a good way to maintain constant incentive. At the beginning of the week, I’m motivated to try and log another successful week, but even if I miss that mark, I still have a reason to the best I can for the remainder of the week. In this case since the goal is to decrease something, keeping an eye on the long term average will be the way that I stop myself from binging and creating a debt that would takes me months to recover from (like last year when I went to the Boston Marathon and watched 7 movies over the course of 4 days).

2019 Exemplar: Nelson Mandela

Finding exemplars is tough. I’ve yet to find a good way to Google for specific people that fit with the theme of the year, so I tend towards people I know something about that seem somewhat relevant to the theme. Perhaps in the future I’ll find a better way to select people.

This year Nelson Mandela came to mind because of the 27 years he spent in prison and the fact that his greatest accomplishments came after that. He was clearly a driven man and to be able to do so little for so long must have been very difficult for him. I think I will be able to learn something from how he survived that experience, grew from it and accomplished things after it. After learning about him, I’m sure a measly six years un-incarcerated preparation will seem a small undertaking in comparison.

2019 Bucket List Item: Run the Wonderland Trail at Mt. Rainier

When I first started this yearly focus process back in 2014, my challenges were basically items from my bucket list that I wanted to cross off that year. Recently I changed challenges to be more focused on the theme and I’ve felt like I’m missing out on achieving bucket list items. So I’m bringing my bucket list back.

For 2019 I am going to attempt to run the 93 mile Wonderland trail that circumnavigates Mt. Rainier. It happens to be appropriate to the theme. The trail is as beautiful as it is difficult, climbing and descending 22k+ ft as it circumnavigates the 14k ft tall volcano. Most people attempt this hike as a backpacking trip of 7-14 days. I’m going to try and run it in in one shot, lasting about 24-36 hours. It will be two days sleepless, exhausting, physical and mental strain. I’m super excited.

Some people might ask if I’m too busy to be adding a nearly-100 mile run to my plate. I feel like I’m too busy to not have it on there. Having something big and crazy looming on my horizon is more motivating to me than having some relaxing period. What I am too busy for is training for a run like this. So I’m not going to do it. The point isn’t to be well prepared and do the run quickly (relatively speaking), it is to suffering through it and enjoy every moment.

2018-2023 Sabbath Cycle Vision: Preparing For My Calling

2018-2023 Sabbath Cycle Vision: Preparing For My Calling

This is not only a new year, but it is also the first full year of my next sabbath year cycle. As such, before I define the focus for this year, I also need to define the guiding vision that will serve me for the next approximately six years. Technically my sabbath year started and ended mid-year, so I’ve actually had this guiding vision in place for six months already, since July 2018.

As I reflected on the exemplars I’ve learned about the past three year, and the period of their lives in which they accomplished the great things they are known for, they each had their biggest impact later in life. Franklin negotiated the treaty with France his 70s. Muir founded the Sierra Club in his 60s. Liddell only lived to be 43, but those final years are the reason he is remembered. Each of those people had accomplishments and showed signs of high potential early in life, but in retrospect those early years seem more as preparation. It was during those early years that they set themselves up for future success by; developing their character, becoming experts at topics they were passionate about, demonstrating their ability to execute on a tactical level, building up financial savings, forming key relationships and/or  setting up circumstances that allowed them to flourish later in life.

My guiding vision for these six year is to undertake the preparations that will allow me to, hopefully, have similar success later in life. To write the most meaningful chapters of my life at some future date.

I do not yet know what those chapters contain, but I do know that there are ways I can better prepare myself. That is what I will attempt to do over the next six years.

Some things this might look like:

  • forming relationships with mentors that will help guide me
  • identifying comrades in arms for missions I believe are important
  • investing in key skills that I can leverage later
  • identifying topics I want to specialize in & becoming an expert
  • demonstrating the ability to execute exceptionally on projects of increasing scope
  • building up financial basis that allows me more opportunity later
  • setting up circumstances so I am close to an ideal place for later action
  • building credibility with the types of people I will need support from later, even those I don’t personally know

I mentioned above that I’ve actually had this vision in place for half of the year. It shouldn’t be surprising then, that a few months ago I accepted a job at one of the most well respected and highest paying companies in the world. That was a move that, I hope, will help with all eight of the above to some degree over the coming years.

What this also means is that this is not a period for me to overextend myself. You can not much prepare for something if all of your capacity is already committed to something else. I am already in a period of life where my current p0 (highest priority) commitments are pretty heavy, so the free capacity I have for anything new is fairly low. With those facts in mind I will look to be more conservative with what I take on and spend more energy maintaining the things I already have.

2018 Focus: End Of Year Review

At the beginning of 2018 I wrote about my focus for the year. I’ve posted a few updates throughout the year (quarter year, half year & three quarters) and now is the time to do a final review.

2018 Theme: First Principles Lifestyle

Self Grade: 7/10

In terms of relevance with theme, this year provided plenty of opportunity. I ended up making two major job decisions and we made one where-to-live decision. Each of those provided an opportunity to evaluate our options based on first principles, what we wanted to achieve.

I think we did a good job drilling back into the heart of the matter and figuring out what we wanted and why we did. The difficulty is even knowing those things, the decisions aren’t easy as everything is a trade off.

2018 Challenge: Profile 12 Families (w/ Kids) Living Intentionally Different

Self Grade: 1/10

I failed to make any significant progress here. The only things I achieved were selecting two families, discussing the idea with them, and then conducting one interview. I failed to get anything on paper.

I believe this failure came down to two main issues.

One, this year had a lot more work than I anticipated. One move that took a solid 40-60 hours and a job search this Fall that took 150-200. That was time that was pulled off the table and meant there was less space to complete something like this.

Two, after spending my days working at a computer and in meetings, I just really didn’t feel like having more of that type of work. Though the topic is more enjoyable, the physical nature of the work is similar. I think this is one of the reasons my physical challenges were so great in the past, they were my excuse to exercise. Something to consider in the future.

2018 Habit: Daily Devotions

Self Grade: 8/10

In Q4 I ended up hitting my goal of 4 devotion times per week on 9 of the 13 weeks. This is tied with my highest yet and I was only 6 missed days away from having a perfect record.

In Q1 I was successful on 33 days, in Q4 it was 46, so over the course of the year I increased my frequency of practicing this habit by 40%, which is slightly less than the 50% I was hoping for a quarter ago. If you were to compare Q4 of this year to Q4 of last year though, which unfortunately I don’t have data on, the increase is likely closer to 100%.

I did make an audible mid-year to change my Q4 target from 6 days per week to 4 days per week based on how my successful weeks had been decreasing and my number of days total was staying about the same in Q1 to Q3. This turned out to be a great strategy – having an achievable weekly goal is a great way to make progress.

I had also specified that I wanted >75% of my Q4 devotion times to be in the morning. It ended up being 31 of 46 days, or 67%, so I was a bit short, but still did better than the 50% and 59% of previous quarters.

2018 Exemplar: John Muir

Self Grade: 7/10

Despite failing to read the most popular biography about Muir, I think I did a great job learning about him. I took in enough to produce this exemplar review, which I’m proud of. The only reason I won’t give myself a higher grade is that I failed to put any learnings into practice this year – mostly because I got started too late.