My Three Words for 2018_ Cut, Shield, Scale

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. They work better than a resolution because they’re a guide, a compass, a way to evaluate decisions we make throughout the year.

In 2017, my 3 words were explore, protect, transform.

I set out to explore, to dig deep in places and spaces I hadn’t been before. This was probably the most successful of my words. I explored far beyond my expectations and came out of 2017 with new capabilities I couldn’t have dreamed of.

I set out to protect against challenges, from economic to business to personal, and this was my least successful. I didn’t foresee many of the challenges of the year, and was unprepared to meet them. As a result, I broke a whole bunch of stuff that I didn’t want to or expect to. The silver lining is that new opportunities opened up from all the failures.

I set out to transform, to make larger leaps than incremental improvements. I did a ton of transformation – some of it anticipated from exploration, and some of it unanticipated from failing to protect. Most of the transformations were great positives, though, from earning my fifth degree black belt in ninjutsu from my teacher’s teacher, Stephen K. Hayes to beginning my transformation from marketing professional to true machine learning and data science professional.

So, what words did I choose for 2018? What should I prepare for, what should I use to evaluate my decisions?

cut shield scale




Cut. I must remove negatives from my life. From foods to habits, I have a list of things I need to cut out. Like a swordsman, I must not be tentative or do things in half measures. I must swing with commitment and cut the ties that hold me back.

Shield. If 2017 was tumultuous, 2018 will be a firestorm. Rather than ambiguously protect, I will shield – by actively blocking – the harms that the world will attempt to inflict on me, my family, my loved ones, my friends, my colleagues, my community, my world. Like any shield, I will need to build the strength I need to hold the shield up to stop the siege against all that matters to me. Like the Roman tortoise formation, shields work best when we lock our shields together.

Scale. In my exploration and transformation of the past year, I discovered more powerful, more useful, more impactful techniques. From archery to martial arts to workplace skills, I learned all-new tricks of the trade, all-new ways to approach life’s problems. In this coming year, I must scale up my efforts. I must go from dabbler to practitioner in the techniques I’m best at. I must double down on what I’m good at, even as I cut out the things that hold me back.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at the conditions I see in the market, in the economy, in the world that guided my choices for these words. I see 2018 as a very difficult year ahead; my words reflect the terseness of impending battle.

What are your words for the year ahead?

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