Yearly Focus

2021 Focus: Together

Better every year. That is my goal. I believe that through focused effort I can keep improving and ensure my best years are still in front of me.
With that in mind, at the start of a new year, I take the time to set my focus for the coming year. By being selective about where I direct my energy, I can achieve results that are exponentially greater than if I split my attention.

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 and 2020).

2021 Theme: Together


This is the fourth year of my current sabbath cycle, a six year period where I am focused on preparing for my calling. As I was thinking about what I needed to do to prepare myself for achieving goals over the long term, I thought of the proverb “if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together”.

I have achieved a lot of goals in my life, but most of them have been individual goals. In contrast, most of the goals remaining in front of me are collaborative. They are either too big for me to tackle alone or require strengths and viewpoints that I don’t possess. With that in mind I want to spend a year thinking about how I can achieve things better with others. I want to think about what relationships are, what different types they can be and how I can nurture them. I want to think about my relationships, which ones are most important to me, which ones I don’t spend enough energy on and which ones I might be missing.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that this is my focus immediate following 2020, the most isolated year of my life.

2021 Challenge: Setup A Contact Reminder System

I’m bad at keeping in touch with people. I always enjoy catching up, but do not have a built in inclination to do so.

I am, however, very good at designing systems/tools and using them. I live in my ToDo list and my wife understands that if something isn’t in my calendar, I won’t be there.

This year I am challenging myself to use my strength to correct my weakness. I would like to develop a simple contact reminder tool that will let me know when it has been a while since I talked to someone that is important to me. That way I can remedy the situation by reaching out.

I will probably leverage some tools that already exist, my ToDo list, maybe a personal CRM, I might even write some Python for the first time in a while to integrate with a few APIs.

2021 Habit: Weekly Reach Out

The goal of my challenge is to do something for the first time, the goal of my habit is to do something repeatedly so it becomes natural to me and I continue to do it after the focused year. I’ve found this works very well. After a few years of measuring certain things, spending a year focused on changing it, and then a few more measuring, I’ve found the impact sticks.

This year my habit will be a weekly reach out. I might end up using my contact reminder system to inform who I reach out to, but I learned last year I shouldn’t have a habit that is blocked by my challenge or I mind end up not doing either.

When it comes to who I will reach out to, it might be someone I know but haven’t spoken to in a while or it might be someone I don’t know but have come across. My goal is that each reach out results in a conversation, and I will track some data about that. In some ways, this seems more difficult in 2021 due to the fact that I can’t meet up in person. But in other ways, it means talking to anyone in the world is equally as easy since we’re all stuck at home.

2021 Exemplar: Brené Brown

Every year I have a hard time picking an exemplar, but every year I enjoy having one.

This year, I especially struggled to pick one and so I sought help from a few people (which fits appropriately with this year’s theme). The suggestions that came back were enlightening. Most were people that I hadn’t thought of, many that I’ve never heard of. Brené stood out as being nominated by four different people.

Usually my exemplars are dead, and if not, as was the case for Warren Buffett, they at least have a few biographies written about them. In this case, I have an exemplar who is still living and does not have a biography published about her life. She does, however, have a lot of content she has produced available – which I believe is the reason she was nominated so many times.

So though I will keep this category called my exemplar for 2021, in reality I feel Brené is more of a guide in that I’ll be learning from her thinking, writing and speaking more so than her personal actions and life story.

I’m excited to get to spend more time using the acute accent. The little mark above the e at the end of her first name. Maybe by the end of the year I’ll even figure out how to type it without having to copy and paste her name from somewhere else to get the formatting right.

2021 Bucket List Item: Run the Cascade Crest 100 in Under 24 hours

My bucket list item isn’t always related to the theme, it is just something I want to cross off my bucket list that year. I figure if all else fails in a year but I accomplish a bucket list item, I at least have one thing to show for it.

In 2021 I intend to run the Cascade Crest 100 miler in under 24 hours. To put that in context, when I last attempted a 100 mile mountain run it took me 48 hours and involved a mountain lion.

This year I am going to attempt to go twice as fast and I am going to make that happen by training. I haven’t been in running shape since 2018 when I dropped out of the Boston Marathon with symptoms of hypothermia. I’ve done a few runs since then, but all of them relied on guts rather that fitness. After nearly three years without being on a training regimen, it is time for me to get back on one. I’ve enjoyed the break, but I’m ready to be fast again.

That said, I have even less time to train than in 2018 and this race is even longer. I intend to remedy that with the magic of a treadmill desk. I’ve learned that ‘time on your feet’ tends to be the most important factor in training for long distance runs. My 8-10 hour workdays give me a lot of time available for being on my feet. Last October during a step competition at work I averaged ~30 miles a day by simply walking at a slow 20 minute mile pace for 10 hours each day. This year I intend to do something similar but then go for a few short and fast runs to supplement that – likely early in the morning or late at night. When the weather gets nice I’ll start throwing in some longer trail runs from my wishlist, using days off to get longer training sessions in, which will help as well.

A note on mountain trail races – trail races are all VERY different. 100 miles here does not equal 100 miles there. One race can take as much as twice as long based on the; amount of up and down, elevation of the race, footing/terrain and support provided. If the Cascade Crest 100 is cancelled again this year, or if I am unable to run it, I will allow myself to substitute a similar run, which I will define based on a conversion chart I’ve developed. I originally made the chart to help me with planning (to let my wife know what time I’d be getting home and/or see if I had enough time in the day to complete a run I was dreaming up) and I’ve found to be pretty accurate. Using the conversion chart might mean running the same course self-supported in a slightly longer amount of time (carrying your own stuff as opposed to having aid stations slows you down a decent bit), that might mean running a different course, like the Wonderland (slightly shorter and no support), that might mean doing 144 miles on the track in 24 hours (no elevation gain and your own aid station every 1/4th mile). Regardless, the challenge will be sufficiently difficult and require at least 24 hours.