That’s right folks, we’ve completed another revolution around our sun. Many of us are replacing the Gregorian calendars on our walls. Many others are getting ready to welcome the year of the Tiger. And while some of us call this time of year summer and others call it winter, all of us can use this otherwise arbitrary point in time to reflect on the year that was, and visualize the year to come.
I use multiple approaches to visualize the future that I want to create. I have a personal mission statement (scroll to the very bottom of any page on my website to find it). I keep a list of a few BIG GOALs that I want to achieve in my lifetime. I maintain a three year plan that identifies the primary objectives I must meet on my journey to those big goals. And, for the shorter term, I create a set of personal goals to strive for each year – along with a set of “three words” that provide focus and eliminate distraction.
Three Words – 2022 Edition
I adopted this practice of using three words to set and then maintain my intention for the year from Chris Brogan several years ago. The basic idea is that the words, once chosen, are used as filters and guides. They are constant reminders of what is most important. I review mine weekly, on Monday, before I do anything else. That way they are front of mind as I start to prioritize my work for the week.
For 2022, my three words are:
One of my words last year was relationship, which was a big step for me as a socially anxious introvert. It was also incredibly powerful. Focusing on that word led me to establish a weekly practice of reaching out to friends old and new – something I’d never really done before (and am still getting better at). And as a new business owner, some of that outreach directly contributed to new opportunities. It also steered me into stronger relationships with my family back in Colorado, and helped me make some new friends – a challenge in a mostly-locked-down world.
I’m definitely going to maintain and strengthen the habits that I formed last year. Namely making time for proactive outreach and focusing on making connections. But this year I intend to take this concept to the next level. Rather than simply seeking to build relationships for myself, I will also focus on forming, growing, and contributing to community. This is at once an extension of my focus on relationship, and also something quite different.
Like one on one relationships, communities are born from an interweaving of interests, often in pursuit of a shared goal. But a community is as much about other people’s relationships as it is about my own. Contributing to, and especially creating community thus requires even more selfless service than building a single relationship. I am committed to finding new and better ways to be of service to those I share interests, values, spaces, or anything else with. I will look for opportunities to introduce people, to bring people together, and to lift people up in the eyes of their peers. I’ll be the cheerleader for ideas and activities that are important to me and to those I love.
Luckily, I already have a lot of practice in this area. I’m a long time volunteer with many of the institutions that are stewards of the internet. I started a book club last year, which is still going strong (reach out if you’re interested in joining). And I love to host a party. This year I will simply do more of this, and do it more intentionally and more mindfully – with goals nested in the communities themselves, rather than in myself.
Creativity is another word that represents concepts and activities that have been a part of my life for a long time. But not forever. For a large chunk of my life, my creativity was stifled. While I don’t think it’s fair to blame any one person, it was absolutely a product of the environment in which I was raised.
Sure, my mom was amazing at creating opportunities for arts and crafts when I was little. But somewhere along the way I was taught that art was gay. And I don’t mean happy. In the small, white bred, country town I grew up in there was some strange link between artistic expression and homosexuality – which for a boy growing up in the 80s and 90s was about the worst thing you could be. The only thing worse than being gay was being a girl. And art came from those two groups of people. So, I never really pursued it.
Adding to that, I came from a long line of hardworking blue collar men. We were logical and we were practical. And while many of the solutions my father and his father came up with in the course of their lives were certainly creative – they were never described as such. So, I learned self-reliance and ingenuity, but never conflated that with creativity. Creativity was for artists, who were essentially wasting their lives instead of contributing to anything useful.
The final issue was the belief that creativity was a gift. Something you have or don’t have. And with all of the above you can probably see why I never assumed that I had it. I was smart, sure, but not creative. That just wasn’t me. I could be an engineer, but not an artist.
Then I realized that was all bullshit.
To be creative is to be human, and vice verse. And what’s more, creativity, just like any other human endeavor, can be learned, taught, practiced, and improved. Everyone is creative, and everyone can be more creative. Sure, there are some genetic and material limitations. We can’t all be Van Gogh. But we can all be creative. In fact, it may be one of the most important things we can be. It could be said that we MUST be creative.
Here again, luck was on my side. As my career progressed I realized that being creative was one of the most valuable things I could be. I started studying it. And about 10 years ago I started writing about how to be more creative. I was fortunate enough to work under Phil McKinney at CableLabs – where I won the coveted “inventor of the year” award and ended up being granted 8 patents when all was said and done. And guess what? It doesn’t seem to have effected my sexual orientation at all. I know, you’re shocked.
More recently I discovered the research on Flow, thanks to Steven Kotler (for the introduction) and ultimately Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (for his life’s work). And Flow has some very strong ties to both Creativity and to Happiness.
So, this year I intend to focus deeply on fostering and cultivating creativity; in myself, in my friends and family, and in my communities. I will find new and more meaningful ways to express what moves me. I’ll find problems, generate and vet lots of differentiated ideas, implement solutions, and scale them. I’m going to write (even) more on (even) more varied topics. And I’ll do more of what I love and less of what I hate. In short, I intend to build additional psychic complexity and further develop my autotelic personality, while finding ways to liberate and protect creative energy. Watch this space.
Okay, I know, the grammar nerds among you are freaking out right now. But I just really like the symmetry of all three of my 2022 words starting and ending in the same way. Let’s just assume that compoundivity is to compounding as creativity is to creating. So, if creativity is the ability to create, then compoundivity is the ability to compound. And compounding has been said to be the most powerful force in the Universe, as it creates exponential growth.
There are a couple versions of an apocryphal story that illustrate the point. The just of it is that a king offers to pay a person whatever prize they wish, and the person says they will take one grain of rice, doubled on each square of a chess board. So, on the first square they get one grain, on the second two, then four and eight and sixteen and on. In the story, the king thinks this sounds like a paltry sum and immediately agrees to pay it. But the rub is that on the 64th square of the chessboard we’ve doubled our way up to 18,000,000,000,000,000,000 grains of rice. And that, I’m told, is about 210 billion tons of rice. As they say; “that escalated quickly.”
You don’t have to double to see compounding returns though. James Clear illustrates this with another analogy; if you get just 1% better every day for a year, you end that year 37 times better! In fact, if you improve by 1% a day, it only takes 70 days to be twice as good as when you started. I just saw another fun example in Neal Stephenson’s latest book. In the book, Houston was founded with a one million dollar investment. And “today” the value of real estate in greater Houston is worth 1.75 trillion dollars. Which sounds incredible – and then a character in the book points out that these numbers are only separated by 200 years of growth, at a pretty modest 6% compound interest rate.
And so I’m focusing on compoundivity this year. I will seek out activities and investments (of time and effort just as much as money) that provide compounding returns. Likewise, I will pay careful attention to the small things that add up over time. I’m going to find ways to turn incremental investments into massive returns through consistency and patience. I’ll read a little more every week. Run a little more each day. Save a couple extra dollars out of every payment. I’m going to buy things that appreciate, instead of depreciate, whenever possible. I’ll leverage my habits, routines, and rituals to move me bit by compounding bit towards massive goals and achievements.
While my three words will help keep me focused by encapsulating my intention, they are a bit fuzzy when it comes to concretely measuring progress. So, I’ll also be shooting for some more concrete personal goals this year as well. I share them here as a form of accountability. Since I know that I’ll be writing again at the end of the year about how I did, it ups the ante a bit by applying some positive peer pressure onto myself.
The most important thing I can do is to keep my mind, body, heart, and soul healthy and working in concert.
Run 1,000+ miles (1,600+ km)
Read 50+ books
Meditate 300+ times
- Take 3 trips over 3 weeks long (nomad, not vacation)
Business and Productivity
I must create value in order to fuel my current lifestyle and my family’s future.
Publish 100+ works (blogs, talks, podcasts, papers)
Write at least 6 chapters for my first book as blog posts
Launch the first suite of FullCtl SaaS products
- Establish operational procedures at GigaOm that lead to increased production velocity and quality
Setting up the future with income and investing. I redact the specific numbers because I think that they’re none of your damn business. But I do think it’s worth sharing generally how I am approaching achievement in this area of life.
Generate $X+ in passive MRR by EoY (my primary business objective is to free more of my time to pursue personal passion)
- Contribute $Y to retirement accounts for 2022 (it lowers our tax burden and sets us up to “retire” at some point)
- Earn over $Z top line revenue (yes, it’s a glamour number, but it’s a fun number and does show growth of our business)
Buy at least one rental property (I’m convinced that real estate is the most accessible method for working class families to build inter-generational wealth)
That’s all for me folks. Now it’s your turn. Drop me a comment below, or a note wherever is most convenient so we can inspire each other!