At the start of each year, I follow the exercise that my friend Chris Brogan first instituted over a decade ago, the tradition of writing down 3 words that guide our year. It's something of a mantra, something of a phrase we used to remind ourselves what we are supposed to be focused on at any given time during the year.
In 2016, the 3 words I chose were strengthen, challenge, own.
Strengthen was to strengthen everything, from physical health to marketing and professional life, to family and home. For the most part, 2016 was a strengthening year.
In 2016, I challenged. I challenged my industry, my colleagues, but myself most of all. I delved deeper into machine learning and artificial intelligence than I ever expected to. By the end of the year, I was able to deliver a talk and begin writing a book on cognitive marketing, on the next evolution of marketing. 2016 certainly posed its own challenges along the way, but the challenges I issued to myself were far greater and far more rewarding.
In 2016, I took ownership of more of my intellectual property. I took ownership of more of my achievements and failings, more of my strengths and weaknesses. It was a year for reclaiming that which I had I have not paid enough attention to or had given away too much of.
So, what of 2017? What will I address the year ahead?
Explore is more than just to find new things. I've noticed in the past year or two as I travel on business, I rarely do any exploring. I go to wherever the venue is, do the task I have been asked to do, and return home. I do not do much in the way of exploration of the physical world. Likewise, I noticed at the end of the year, I was going through the motions on a lot of things. I still delivered the highest quality work, but my innate curiosity had dampened. In the coming year, I will open it up again, and explore more.
Protect is my second word for the year. Protect myself, protect my family, protect the people I care about, protect my community, and protect those who are aligned with my values. Challenging times are ahead, for the macroeconomic picture and the industry I work in. I believe the next year will bring significant instability and unpredictability to markets, businesses, and government. These unsettled times will impact the people I care about.
Transform is my third word. We can only optimize so much. We can only mitigate our weaknesses and bolster our strengths to a point. Over time, limitations become restrictions. As we hit diminishing returns, as we achieve our goals, we believe our limits are fixed. Limitations become prisons. To transcend these limitations, we cannot simply do more of what we have always done, to do what we have always done a little bit better. We must transform, we must become something else, perhaps even someone else.
In the field of marketing, I have been known as a podcaster, an SEO practitioner, an email marketer, an analytics professional, and a marketing technologist. I believe the next evolution of marketing is here, as machine learning and artificial intelligence become the dominant forces in our industry. I must transform my work to align with these inevitable changes. I will transform in other ways too, personally, spiritually, financially.
Explore. Protect. Transform.
What will you choose as your mantra of power and reminder of self in 2017?
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