A Fresh Start Begins with a Vision

Each new year starts with grand motivations. Desires to sweep away the past and start anew. Grand ambitions, resolutions, and intentions to make this coming year better than the previous one. A chance to change our lives. The best way to do that is create a vision of yourself and write it down.

As I mentioned previously, instead of a list of resolutions and promises to myself that will inevitably be broken, I defined a list of values. Building a vision statement much like the one Brandon Webb describes in his New Years goal setting episode, I took these values a wrote out a short paragraph that I can review frequently throughout the year. It forms a foundation for how I see the person I want to be in 2018. I can then use it as the grounding point for the choices I will face over the year.

As a single father in my early 40’s, my primary focus is raising my two boys as happy and healthy young men. I am active and healthy, defining my life through my experiences. A constant learner, I am always looking to grow and become better at everything I do. I am focused and intentional. I use failure as my friend, providing me critical feedback as I continue to try new things. I value the struggle, always pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. I strive to be a valuable resource for others looking to improve themselves by providing leadership, guidance, and inspiration by setting a positive example at all times and in all things. Above all I value my friends and family.

A life of experiences

I had defined 2017 as my ‘year of exploration’. I focused a lot on new experiences and this served me well. I made new friends and confronted many of my fears which allowed me to move past a lot of the road blocks I had put up. As I reviewed the events of this past year I came to realize this was an aspect of my life I wanted to continue. To ensure this theme continues I made sure I continued to define myself through my experiences, to identify my relationships with friends and family as a core value, and to highlight learning and continuous growth as a part of my essence.

The year of focus and intention

After slowly putting myself back together over 2015 and 2016 I knew I needed to push myself to grow. From my notes earlier in the year I identified social, travel, experiences, engagements, and passions as aspects of life I wanted to highlight. As I sit here and review my year I can see how this theme underscored almost everything I did over the year. It was clear that providing myself a theme, and revisiting it regularly, guided my choices. The year opened my mind and I was once again filled with new ideas and inspirations, a part of me that had been repressed for sometime.

However, by the end of the year I was engaged in several new projects, investigating others, cultivating new friendships, all while still fulfilling my existing obligations. 2018 I am defining as “The year of focus and intention”. I listed out all my main ideas and moved several off my main plate for this year, and highlighted the one that most fit with my objectives both in the short and long term. I also highlighted a couple that I wanted to cultivate as passion projects. While this meant that some of my ideas, some good ideas, had to be moved aside. This was hard as I felt a few of these were really good and fit my long term objective, but represented too much needed time, money and attention. Less is more.

A growth mindset

During 2017 I was introduced to the concept of a growth mindset. A belief that my talents are not predefined and can be developed and improved through intentional effort. As I move into 2018 I know that I am in full control of my life. As Charles Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% of how you react to it.” While failures and setbacks will continue to be a part of my life, I am taking a page from Jim Kwik and choosing to treat them as feedback that I can learn from.

You only fail if you fail to learn. Everything else is just feedback.

– Jim Kwik

However, the biggest thing as I start this new year is the knowledge that everyday starts anew. Life is as fluid as the ocean, constantly changing and presenting new opportunities. I will have good days and bad days, make good and bad decisions. By defining a vision and identifying a theme I am providing myself with the tools to re-adjust to the changing tides.

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2018.

The New Year is Upon Us


The current year is almost done and for the most part it has been a good one. Life over this past year has not been simple, but I enjoyed some adventures. Generally, I find myself in a more positive place than I was a year ago. As the New Year ball drops I find it time to take charge. To define where I want my life to go from here.

The start of the new year provides a chance to both reflect on the past as well as define the plan for tomorrow. So that is what I am going to do over this weekend. I am not going to just list out a bunch of resolutions as I have done in the past. Instead I am going to put together a plan.

To start, I need to break down this past year. Taking a look at the good things, the bad things, and the areas where I experienced my greatest growth. Then I need to lay out my plans and desires for this coming year, identifying the milestones and events I have to be prepared for. Then I have to look at the things that might go wrong, and set aside some time to visit how I might handle those situations.

Of course, I have already started this process to some degree. To be honest it is something that should be an ongoing discussion you are having with yourself, however, just in the last couple months I have been presented with some options and changes that make me revisit several of my longer term goals and identify where I really want to go.

Beginning with the end in mind

We need to have a vision of where we are going and what we want. It is that dream, that aspiration, that will help guide you and keep you focused on what needs to be done.

Identify what drives you

This is often referred to as your core values, the things that really matter to you. Defining and writing these down will provide you a clear picture of who you are and how you make your decisions. These are not static and will change overtime, life changes and you must be willing to adapt.

Putting first things FIRST

If there was one area I noticed more than any other was that I was all over the place this year. I had so many projects, tasks, and obligations that I really didn’t have any time for any of them. What I need to do is list them, rank their priority, and then identify which ones can be put aside for now.

Obviously, this is not an activity for one evening and couple hours of making a bucket list for the year. While that can be fun exercise. A way of looking ahead and dreaming about the things you can do over the next year, it does not put you in command of your life – and that is what I am needing to do this year.

Passion for the Purpose – Purpose for the Passion

As I laid there, my head still nuzzled in the soft embrace of the pillows, I could feel the warm glow of sunshine shining through the window. As I opened my eyes I could see it just cresting the horizon and gracing the world with the dawn of a new day. I felt good as I slide off the edge of my bed and headed to the shower. I had been up late the night before, in fact, I only had maybe 4 to 5 hours of sleep behind me but I was feeling great. The previous night had seen me pouring over code of my newly minted project and I had managed to get the core structures in place – I could see it start to come together. In fact this whole week I have been caught up in the project, every spare minute spent sketching, planning, and designing. I have notes scattered everywhere throughout the house; database designs on the coffee table, different UI layouts on the counters … I would not be surprised if you found sketches in the bathroom. I could not sleep, I needed to keep working. This is going to be great … it is going to change the world.

Except, that wasn’t my day today. It is true that I was up late and likely only got 4-5 hours sleep (maybe 6), but I was washing dishes and updating the online stats sheets for our hockey league. I woke up to the incessant beeping of my iPhone alarm and dragged myself from my bed and to the shower. There I stood, water pouring down onto my head as I slowly woke, centered myself, and looked out at my day. I had things to do, tasks to accomplish. As I left the house and started out on my long commute to the office the rain hit, it was only then I realized how dreary the day looked. It was going to be another day of pushing papers and cleaning code of bugs. Yet, I needed to. I needed to pay for the bills, which fed my family, my bed, and the roof over my head. It allowed me to explore several of my inspirations, and I have several brewing currently. While I hadn’t spent the time on them I would like, I put in what I can. My notes litter my desk, counter, and coffee table. Each of the ideas is different and don’t overlap on their own, yet each has a common thread. A singular motivation … a purpose. It is for that I push on. For through that purpose we are going to change the world.

It is during that long commute I was taking the opportunity to listen to Ego Is the Enemy. In chapter 8 of the audio book, Ryan Holiday suggests that we ignore our passion as passions are fleeting and often reckless. In this he is right, passions are often fleeting and can often result in many workshop floors littered with unfinished products. I am not going to dig deep into his point at this time, many because it got me thinking and thus a little distracted.

In fact this topic came up later with a friend, and from that I felt that passion alone can be reckless and irresponsible but that it is also not something to be ignored. Instead, passion needs to be matched with purpose. Without purpose, passion for a project is like a drag car without a road.

Passion is the gas, Purpose the steering wheel.

While passion can be a great motivator and ensure things are done correctly, it can be hard to find somedays. Days when your energy is low and the work seems too daunting … where is your passion? Days when the clouds cover the skies, your muscles are sore, and your brain is tired … the passion seems lost. As the great energizer, it should be Passion that is pulling you from your bed and moving you along … but it doesn’t. That is your purpose. Your purpose is what drags you from the sheets and gets the first cup of coffee into your system. Purpose will keep you going when the tasks are not fun, it keeps you disciplined when you want to throw in the towel. Yet, without passion, purpose eventually loses momentum and interest fades.

To avoid this, it is important to maintain or restore the passion for a project. I believe the best source for rejuvenating your passion is by revisiting your purpose. Explore and discuss your mission, your vision, the very reason WHY you started down this road, preferably with a group of people you can feed ideas off of. This is what those corporate events, those team offsets, those year-end presentations are suppose to do but miss so completely … and it is one thing Apple® is famous for during their keynote addresses. They may touch on the numbers, the products, and the happenings … but they always explain a why, their why. When authentic it breeds passion amongst their fans, their employees, and the general market. The best motivational speakers also look to tap into that same well, specifically getting you to tap back into your own purpose, personal or professional, and extract your passions.

Passion may power you while purpose keeps you going in the right direction and that same purpose then is there to re-ignite your passion when energy fades. Use it to change your world.

I am still only partially through the book, but so far has been chalked full of valuable nuggets on how your Ego impacts your life through how you view others and view your world. If you have read the book I would love to hear your thoughts or any additional recommendations you have.