Now that we’ve all had time to reflect on the year that was 2022, it’s time to strap in for 2023!
A year is not a rocket ship though, there are no safety harnesses, so how do we strap in?
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Said Mike Tyson, who was paraphrasing Helmuth von Moltke the Elder (whether he knew it or not). They and everyone else who’s said the same in different words was right. So, why plan at all?
Because it’s effective to think through future scenarios and decide for yourself the direction and the destination you’d like to travel towards; even if you will never follow the exact path or hit the precise target. Having a “North Star” to guide you is important. And we need to bring that star down to Earth in a way that can keep us on track as we move through our lives.
In other words, we plan to set our intention. We do this because, as Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger said: “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” If we don’t know where we are going, there is no way to get there. In life, that’s a recipe for mediocrity at best, and intense suffering at worst. Better to set, and stick to, your own intention, intentionally.
To stay on track over the course of time, we mere humans need help. We use tools. One of the tools I use to be more intentional throughout each year is Chris Brogan’s “My Three Words.” I first did this after learning about it from a colleague back in 2014. And I gave a pretty thorough explanation of why in 2019. Since then I’ve been using the concept more and more rigorously, through 2020, 2021, and again last year. So, if you want to know more about the practice, and how to apply it in your own life; check out some of those posts. Today, I’m going to dive right in.
For 2023, my three words are:
Why these three words this year? I’m so glad you asked! Let’s quickly run through each of them.
Learning is my passion. To me, it’s a primary driver. In the past, when I was in a bad place – jobs, relationships, etc – I’ve always asked myself some variation of “am I learning” and/or “what can I learn from this?” When I stopped learning, I moved on. I’ve done that pretty consistently throughout my career. And as you might guess, as a passionate learner I’ve also spent a decent amount of time and effort learning to learn over the past 42 years. So, why make it a focus in 2023?
There are a few reasons that “learn” is not just on my list of words this year but is at the top of that list. The first is captured quite elegantly in Habit 5 of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.” Stephen has said that this is the “single most important principle [he has] learned in the field of interpersonal relations.” I can’t disagree. The more I live and learn the more I realize just how important every single relationship is, and how much each of them is dependent on seeing the world, as much as possible, from the other person’s perspective. How do we do that? Mostly, we ask, and then we listen. Sidebar: Give this podcast episode a listen for some great tips on how to do this better.
In fact, I almost chose “listen” as one of my words this year. Except that listening isn’t enough – I want to hear and to understand. Plus I don’t just want to listen – I want to learn in many ways. Which brings me to the second reason I added Learn to the top of my three words this year: I’m an entrepreneur now. One who hit his first (full/calendar) year revenue target and is feeling pretty good. To guard against any possible complacency I need to keep learning. I must learn from successes and from mistakes. And I intend to continue learning from as many people as possible. I’m going to dedicate even more, way more time to reaching out and talking to prospects, clients, colleagues, friends, and strangers about their hopes, dreams, fears, and anxieties. Not just to get to know them better – although that is a big part of it – but also to learn about the markets I operate in and the challenges left to solve.
If you know anything about me, you know that I am passionate about helping people. It’s why I’ve founded several non-profits over the years, and why I’ve volunteered at so many others. While I do want to care for my family, of course, I also want to have the largest possible positive impact. And the more I can learn, the better I can do exactly that.
In addition to talking to more folks more often, listening better to each one of them, asking better questions, and working to understand the answers; I also plan to continue my reading habit. I intend this year to find new expert voices, and to reconnect with ones I may have drifted away from. Books, papers, and articles are all in my sights. If you know of folks putting out great content about network design, automation, and interconnection please pass them my way!
I also plan to read more physical books this year. This is partly by necessity as I am focusing now on biographies, which tend to be a lot longer than business and personal development books – and that means that listening to audiobooks during my daily runs won’t get me to my goal of 50 books completed this year without some help. The other part is that I just love curling up with a real book and taking information in through the written word. More of that this year, please.
On the one hand, teaching is a great way to solidify learning. On the other, teaching is a fantastic way to “pay it forward” and share something positive with the world. I believe very strongly that Margaret Fuller was giving great advice to us all when she said: “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.” After all, what’s really the point of learning, if you’re just going to keep it to yourself? Sidebar: Don’t think you have anything to teach? You do, and here’s an article that will help you see (and do) that.
Plus, not only is teaching what you know the right thing to do, I love doing it! I love writing, and speaking, and seeing that moment when someone “gets it” for themselves. As you can probably imagine, starting several businesses (GTS, UII, FullCtl) and a podcast (ISN) while maintaining my contributions in a couple volunteer positions (IXD, OIX) and traveling around the world visiting friends and family with my beautiful wife has not left me much time to do the other things I love. And that means I’ve done far less writing and speaking than I would have liked to. In 2023 I intend to fix that.
If I’m being fully open and honest with you (which I am) it was more than just time constraints. Entrepreneurship and consulting are both new to me. And that means I’ve been suffering from a bit of imposter syndrome: Who am I to talk about these (very serious) things that I know basically nothing about? This year I’m going to get over that. I’m going to do my best to show my work more often. Even when I turn out to be wrong. I’m going to do my best to be more transparent more often about what works and what doesn’t. Time will still be a constraint, of course, and that is why Teach is one of my words for 2023 – to act as a constant reminder to make time to get out of my comfort zone and teach what I’m learning, as I learn it.
Another constraint on my writing and speaking has been one of distance. Not physical distance but rather something I’ll call technical distance. My work with GigaOm is wonderful, but last year the majority of it was focused on helping their CEO and management team with business operations and on helping my team of network, edge, security, and privacy analysts communicate their own knowledge more effectively. I also worked with several clients on various strategic and tactical marketing initiatives. And, of course, I worked on pulling together and organizing several new businesses and ventures. What I did not do very much of, was ‘get my hands dirty.’ I did very little direct network design or deployment, automation work, or interconnection and BGP configuration. Everything was a bit arms length, technically. And while it was a very productive and fun year, I miss that hands on involvement in deploying and even just playing with the new technology, myself.
So, I will also be doing more of that. More experimenting and building. Which will give me more lessons to both learn from, and more importantly; to teach! Watch this space.
Now you’re thinking, “wait a minute Chris, learn and teach I get – they are active words that can drive progress and value creation, but ‘wait’ is so passive…” Not so, my punny friend. At least not in the way I’m choosing to define it and use it in my life this coming year.
I’ve half-joked for a long time that if there is reincarnation that I was put here in this life to learn patience. I spent a lot of my life in a hurry. Harried. And despite years of joking about it, I’ve only very recently figured out how to slow down and really appreciate time. I wrote about this when I turned 40 a couple years back, so I won’t rehash the whole thing here. What I will say, is that since that revelation (read the post), I have learned how to catch myself and stop rushing. In addition to training myself to notice and stop it – I’ve seen first hand the results. Not only do I get just as much, if not more done every day, week, and month; I do so with a much happier disposition.
My intention this year is to turn waiting into a super power. Similar to how I converted myself from incorrigible people pleaser to a master of “no.” I am going to be more patient. And through that patience I’ll be more kind in my interactions with other human beings. I will wait for folks to catch up, to catch on, and to join in. I will wait for folks to digest and to respond. And I will wait when someone asks me the same question for the third time. I’m going to use waiting as a way to open up space. Space for listening and for learning. Space for teaching too.
Not only will I be more patient with other people, I will be more patient with myself. I’ve turned my previously always impossible 3 year plans into a new 5 year plan – one that is realistic as well as motivational. I’m going to give myself more time to think, to reflect, and to just be. I am going to remember that I can do anything I want, but not everything at once. And that everything worth doing takes time. I intend to make time to meditate EVERY day this year. And to avoid the temptation to fill every waking hour with some project, task, or assignment. I’m going to allow myself to get comfortable just waiting, sometimes.
For me it will almost always be an active waiting though. I know myself to well to think that I can ever stand still for too long. But I’ve gotten a taste of an unhurried style of action that is much more comfortable and just as productive. I plan to lean into that, and see how far I can take it. I’m going to plant seeds and take time tending them while I wait for them to bloom at some future date, without trying to rush them to bear fruit, now! Now! Now! My new mantra will be “let’s wait, and see what happens.”
It’s not just words that will guide me through the next 12 months or so. I find goal setting to be another amazingly powerful tool for getting the most out of myself and my life. And since I’ve gotten in the habit of making many of my most important goals public, I’ll do that again today.
As ever, keeping my mind, body, heart, and soul fit and in alignment is the most important job I have. This year these goals look similar to last year, with a couple increases and additions:
- Run at least 2,000 km in distance
- Run at least 20,000 meters vertical
- Meditate every day
- Read at least 50 books – focus on biographies and history
Business and Productivity
How I create value for my fellow humans.
- Grow the Imposter Syndrome Network by at least 10x
- Publish at least 100 original works (blogs, podcasts, papers, webinars, etc)
- Write at least 6 more chapters for my first book as blog posts
- Interview at least 100 colleagues about interconnection and automation
- Publish the NetDevOps Handbook
- Publish 120 KCR reports with GigaOm
- Be quoted in the media at least 5 times
- Help my wife, Eva Leos, launch her new branding and digital design firm
I’ve got a couple more that I’m unwilling or unable to share at this time, but I’ll report on them at the end of the year, promise.
Building my family’s future with income and investing. As last year, numbers are redacted, but the goals are included here because I do think it’s worth sharing generally how I am approaching achievement in this area of life.
- Collect $X in gross profit (forget revenue, what do I need to make after I pay everyone else?)
- Invest $Y in retirement brokerage accounts (most stocks are on sale!)
- Save $Z for future investment in real estate (I remain convinced that real estate is the most accessible method for working and middle class families to build inter-generational wealth)
Well, that’s it for me for now. I’d love to hear from you. What are your plans for 2023? What’s your inspiration this year? Your three words? And, most importantly: When are we going to catch up so I can learn from you???
While I’m waiting for you to reach out, I’ll be busy learning, teaching, and blasting off into my best year yet. I hope you’ll join me!