5 min read

2023 - How'd we do?

Revisiting this year's themes
2023 - How'd we do?

I’ve been out on these streets for a couple years now advocating for the importance of themes over goals because a thematic orientation allows you to be more responsive to change without having to be purely reactive. For the last couple years, I’ve shared my themes and done an evaluation of how they played out in the year…I also shared at the beginning of this year that I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants. I came into the year with a relatively weak sense of what I wanted this year to be about - at least that’s what I thought at the time. In hindsight, I can read back into it and see that I couldn’t quite put my finger on the fact that I needed a year of stability.

And, truth be told, that’s what I got. I’m grateful for it, and I think a lot of what has shown up in this newsletter flowed from the time & energy that accompanied not moving countries, starting a new company, integrating my family into a new cultural context, getting my kids into yet another new school, etc. My lineup of clients this year was pretty stable; my 3 major clients at the end of the year were also my 3 major clients at the beginning of the year. There was no major home renovation project.

This was, by a significant margin, the most stable year in at least a decade. And - foreshadowing - I think I might be ready to shake things up a bit in 2024.

But let’s just focus on 2023 for today. I had identified 3 themes for myself:

Theme 1: Explore ideas and opportunities to discover your next big step

The color commentary:

I probably expected this to move farther faster. In fact, I’ve expected to figure out my next thing in each of the past 2 years…and meanwhile, I’ve just been able to dig in and explore a lot of things that I’m curious about and generally pretty skilled in. With that said, I am headed into 2024 with an actual sense of momentum on this front, so I’m going to call it a win.

What I said I wanted it to be a year ago:

  • Monthly conversation with someone I want to learn from
  • Monthly experience that stretches my comfort zone
  • Kick off a new research project on school models
  • Publish every other week on here

What it has actually looked like:

  • See also, Looking back on a most prolific year

  • I maybe kind of sort of cheated on that monthly conversation with someone I want to learn from, because it isn’t like it was a different person every month…I’ve got some really stable people in my life who provoke, challenge, and inspire me. I could probably be more deliberate about expanding that circle though.

  • The research project didn’t materialize. The Pokemon Travelogue and Countertop Chaos did.

  • I co-developed new games, prototyped new software, took a class on spontaneous collaborative musical performances, danced a night away in a Berlin club…and that’s just scratching the surface.

  • I, um, I have some ideas for 2024 - some directions I’m going to pursue, some new kinds of projects I’m going to take on. I have a clearer sense of the space I want to occupy.

Theme 2: Embrace natural rhythms

The color commentary:

When I look back, I can see certain themes where a one year focus ends up being less about accomplishing the specific goals and more about planting seeds that will grow to fruition over a multiple year horizon. That’s how I see this one - this year reoriented me and made me aware of the rhythms over which I have significant influence and those over which I don’t. That reorientation will likely pay a lot of future dividends.

What I said I wanted it to be a year ago:

  • At least 4 weeks of disconnected holiday
  • Take off every school holiday

What it has actually looked like:

  • I took the entire month of August off and will also be off the last week of the year.

  • I am learning to identify and anticipate both high and low intensity periods, and I have a better understanding of how to navigate both.

  • I am much more aware of the seasonality of where I live, and I have coping & thriving strategies for the different seasons.

  • I did not take off every school holiday - my high and low intensity seasons don’t match up with the Dutch primary school calendar, but I’ve found other times when I can be more available for my family.

Theme 3: Strengthen the foundation - health & relationships

The color commentary:

When I work with teams on developing new products, we talk about the drunken walk (h/t to my former boss Brod Magrath) where you’re moving in a pretty circuitous manner from point A to point B, recognizing that point B might change along the way. That’s how I feel about this area of my life - as this year winds up, I feel stronger foundationally than I did a year ago. The growth came largely from an awareness and orientation to building foundational strength, but it really did not look like I expected it to. A lot of what I did was give myself permission to allocate time, energy, and money to things that would improve my physical, mental, and social wellbeing - and that permission giving proved to be a mental roadblock that I continue to wrestle with.

What I said I wanted it to be a year ago:

  • Establish a consistent exercise routine that leaves you feeling energetic and resilient
  • Feel more hopeful for the next decade of marriage

What it has actually looked like:

  • I go see a physiotherapist once a month.

  • I walk and/or ride my bicycle nearly every day, regardless of the weather.

  • I have learned to eat when I am actually hungry, not just because there is food there or because it seems to fit conveniently into my schedule.

  • Sarah & I meet and talk with a counselor once a month.

  • I try to say “yes” to the kids as often as possible when they want to spend time with me.

Alright…that’s going to be a wrap on 2023! I’ll be back at some point in January with something new.