It’s new year’s resolution season! But I don’t make “resolutions” because by and large, it’s mostly an excuse for people to make promises they don’t keep, just to give themselves the illusion that this new year would somehow be different than the last, better than the last.
More fat people and smokers are still fat or are still smoking, after the new year’s “resolution” effect wears out, usually before mid-year. There’s absolutely accountability, no follow-through’ing on the commitments. I really, really, need to know how and why and really how, my year is going to be different. Anyway, I’m calling mine “goals“. As in, S.M.A.R.T. goals.
I won’t share my entire list (some of it is private) but among my non-work list of goals -
- Do at least 1 thing that scares me (if I don’t find something by Q4, I’ll default this one to sky diving)
- Go for at least 1 conference (cloud computing/SaaS, mobile apps, entrepreneurship, startup, or product management)
- Sleep less, work out more –> to be more productive (I have a schedule carved out, so this one is as quantifiable as it gets)
- Get my motorcycle license
A few days ago I saw Om Malik’s list, and I’d like to share that here as the lessons learned are valuable. Om had a heart attack last year and made a promise to drastically change his lifestyle for the better. Folks, you don’t need to be at the brink of death to change your ways. Without further ado, here are Om’s lessons (and how I’m going to use it as a guidelines for myself)
Lesson #1: Set simple goals
When I came back from the hospital on Jan. 17th, I made a silent pledge to myself: I am going to do whatever it takes to make it to the first anniversary of my heart attack.
I am not a big advocate, however, of simply surviving. Rather I want to feel a sense of winning, on a daily basis. In order to do this, short-term goals had to supplant those focused on the long term. The result has been two good weblog posts a week, two great conversations a day, and more smiling, day and night.
Looking back last year .. I did sometimes feel demotivated because I found it difficult to stomach a steady diet of negative outcomes. This year, I need to celebrate even the small wins.
Lesson#2: Binary choices help make better decisions
When faced with a binary choice â€” live or die â€” I made the following upgrades:
1. After a 40-Dunhills-a-day-habit for nearly 20 years, I stopped smoking.
2. No more cigars, either.
3. No drinking.
4. No red meat.
5. Caffeine, sugar, salt and all unhealthy foods are now banished from my diet.
6. I go to the gym every single day.
Making such drastic changes wasnâ€™t easy, but they offered me the best chance of staying alive â€” and 50 pounds and 12 months later, have clearly worked.
How bad do you want it? For Om, it’s “how bad do you want to live?” I just need to ask myself, how bad do I want <insert goal here>? If I treat it like life or death, then you betcha I will be ruthlessly brutal on execution.
This also means I will be saying “no” to a lot of things. I will be brutal on cutting down on activities that doesn’t in some way help me get to my goals. I don’t care what it is. If it’s not aligned with my goals, I won’t regret not doing it.
Lesson #3: Simplification through elimination
A culture that emphasizes success, like the one here in Silicon Valley, can make setting parameters especially hard. Lucky for me, my cardiologist, Dr. Eddie Rame, came right out and told me that unless I stopped working more than 10 hours a day I would be back in the hospital.
In doing so, he set parameters for my daily work schedule, leaving it up to me to be figure out how I would be most productive. Those parameters helped me make tough choices -â€“ like cutting back on excessive public appearances, travel, frivolous RSS feeds and unnecessary company pitch meetings.
One year later, nearly 75 percent of my conversations are with people I love to converse with and nearly every topic on which I write (or focus) is something that I care deeply about.
Sometimes when I don’t limit and time-box an activity, I tend to end up spending more time on it than I initially would have wanted to. Sometimes because I’m a perfectionist, when “good enough” was all I needed. Sometimes going that extra mile cost me diminishing returns on my effort and time. So this year, I’m going to let myself be sloppy and “good enough” for non-core goals, so that I can focus my effort on my real core goals.
Lesson#4: In your team you should trust
One of the biggest fallacies of modern life is that one person, alone, can achieve great things. If that were indeed the case, then A-Rod would have won a World Series title. Life and startups are no different than sports teams.
Before I got sick, it was hard for me not to interfere in every single decision that was made here at GigaOM. Of course, in my absence the staff soldiered on, and were able to not only keep the company running but growing.
When I returned, I had to choose to let go â€” which I did, albeit reluctantly. The results were astonishing. As a company we grew over 150 percent, acquired two excellent weblogs, hosted three sold-out conferences, named Paul Walborsky as our CEO, Carolyn Pritchard as our managing editor and raised enough capital to thrive during the economic downturn.
As Iâ€™ve written before, when you empower people, they, in turn, empower you. Remember that â€“- especially when things get really, really tough.
Before I go, I will leave you with these words from Indian philosopher Mahatma Gandhi:
â€œLive as if you would die tomorrow, learn as if you would live forever.â€
Happy holidays, and thanks for helping me make it to today!
I’m not going to try to everything myself, this year. I’m far from a control-freak, but I’ll learn to “let go” more, when there’s little upside to not let go, and when it makes sense to let go.