For the past six years I’ve made a practice of taking some time at the end of the year to look back at my accomplishments and challenges, and to make plans and set goals for the coming year. It isn’t really about New Year’s Resolutions, so much as prioritizing on steroids. My friend R. Paul Herman (founder at HIP Investor) shared a framework I liked - looking at your life in 6 dimensions: health, family and friends, purpose (career essentially), balance of life, love and financial stability. He also suggests setting an overarching theme for the year.
Over the years I’ve also found some other great resources – Alex Vermeer’s 8760 (the number of hours there are in a year), which is a lot like Paul’s process, but with more mind-mapping. There’s also Chris Guillebeau’s How to Conduct Your Own Annual Review, and Cal Newport and his writing on Deep Work.
The whole process can be really engaging if you’re into this sort of thing, and have the time an inclination to think this way. My general observation is that people like thinking bout themselves, and I’ve often wondered how, given this, we’ve managed to take the annual review process at work – generally a whole work-based system for thinking about yourself and what you’re doing – and turn it into something almost universally despised.
Along these same lines, I was recently asked to lead a World Café table on personal brand, and it was a good exercise in thinking through what I actually believe personal branding to be. Far from self-promotion, my experience of personal branding is about self-discovery, with a goal of personal and professional growth – basically announcing your goals and what you see as the best aspects of yourself with an eye towards getting better.
And if you are reading this, you are probably aware that I have now launched my personal website. I had played with the idea of doing so during a few past annual planning sessions, but was motivated to do so this year with the specific goal of generating more public speaking opportunities. I have been broadening my work beyond Playworks with Substantial , and I’m exploring a new for-profit effort that will be focused on organizational design and development for corporations and looking for a chance to join a for-profit board of directors – all if which seemed to add up to a good reason to launch.
My annual plan also calls for a monthly blog, so you can track my progress against these other goals here. Thanks for visiting and helping to hold me accountable – I hope you’ll check back in. And if you end up creating a plan for yourself along these lines – or if you figure out how to make annual planning at work more enjoyable – please let me know!
Dear Kids of the United States,
It’s been quite a year for us grown-ups in the United States, and it occurs to me that you may be wondering what’s going on. Maybe you’ve noticed many adults in your life having a lot of serious conversations.
The basic story is we haven’t been doing a great job of communicating well with one another. And we grown-ups have to figure out how to do that better.
As I’ve been thinking about how to do that, I realized there is something really important to share with you.
You, America’s children, are far more powerful and influential than you know. There are many historical examples of exemplary kids—like Ruby Bridges and Malala—who helped to change the world for the better. And there are also lots of examples of everyday heroics—like when I got my parents to stop smoking when I was 8. Kids all across our country championed recycling and seat belts before they were popular, defended schoolmates who were being picked on, marched for justice, registered voters and raised huge sums of money for causes they believed in.
In this spirit, I offer three concrete suggestions of things you can do to use your power and influence to help people get along.
#1 Ask Questions.
I know some teachers want you to give them the right answers to everything. In life, though, asking the right questions is way more important. If you are wondering about something you’ve heard—on the news, in class, on the playground—ask a grown-up, like a parent, a teacher, a coach, or a librarian—librarians are the superheroes of question-answering. Just by asking questions, you’re making a difference. Questions make people think, and that’s always a good thing.
#2 Play More.
Sounds crazy, but you playing well with other kids actually makes the world a better place. The more you play, the more joy is released into the atmosphere, and the more you and your friends learn to solve problems and work together.
#3 Be Kind.
This may seem like it couldn’t possibly be that important, but being kind is the single most important thing you can do to make a difference. This small action has an impact way beyond what you imagine because your kindness not only influences the people you’re being kind to, it also affects people who see you being kind and . . . BONUS, the person who benefits most of all from your kindness is you.
All of the grown-ups at Playworks are 100% committed to ensuring that you and kids everywhere have access to daily, safe, and healthy play. Beyond that, we want to make sure that schools are kind and respectful places, where learning and joy happen and where you are able to discover your best selves.
We know you are capable of far more than what grown-ups sometimes believe about you, and that this includes extraordinary leadership. We grown-ups have a lot of work to do to make life in the United States better for everyone, and I, for one, believe we will do a better job if we have your leadership to guide us.
Many thanks for all your help with this. On behalf of the grown-ups, I am so glad you’re here.
People need meaning, the opportunity for mastery, and community to thrive. Creating opportunities for people to contribute, and to find their best selves is some of the most important work we can do.