We’ve reached the end of 2018. I hope the year ended with you set up to succeed in 2019. On the one hand, the change of a year is immaterial; one day isn’t significantly different than the next. On the other hand, it’s an opportunity, should we take it, to reboot and stop doing some things, start doing others. I like to look at the year that was based on the three words exercise which I’ve done every year since Chris Brogan introduced it to me.

If you’re not familiar, each year, instead of resolutions, you choose three words (I try to choose verbs) which help guide your decisions for the year, a sort of mantra that you can recite easily to remind yourself of what’s important, what you’re supposed to be working on.

This time last year, I chose cut, shield, and scale. Cut out some things from my life that weren’t working. Shield the people I cared about from substantial harm. Scale the things I’m good at. I chose those words because I was at a turning point in my life, leaving behind a desk job and taking the leap into entrepreneurship.

How did I do? Cut worked too well – I lost a lot this year, both good and bad. Some friends turned out to be enemies in disguise. Some people disappointed me bitterly. Some personal events shocked me. But those awful lows brought great clarity, focus, and personal truth, truth that was essential to making good decisions.

Shield didn’t work as well as it should have. I wasn’t able to protect everyone to the extent I would have liked, and I had to make many more personal sacrifices than I had planned. But in the end, everything worked out, so I still count this as a win, given the other possible outcomes.

Scale worked. Scale worked because cut worked. As an example, I didn’t realize until after I left my desk job just how much time every week was sucked up by unimportant things. Meetings, pre-meetings, pre-meeting meetings, time sheets, expense reports, performance reviews, executive briefings, scads of slide decks meticulously prepared for people who barely read them, if at all. When I look back, of the 60-70 hours a week I worked, I estimate I wasted 50% of them on unproductive activities. They were mandatory because of the nature of corporate America and the way it works, but they were not productive.

The morning after I left, the first day in my basement office, I saw an almost blank calendar. What to do when the entire working day wasn’t consumed by trivialities? It turns out that you can solve a great many problems when there’s nothing eating up that much time. 2018 was as professionally amazing as it was personally straining. There were three major machine learning problems I’d been working on for years – one dating back to 2013 – that I was able to finally solve in a matter of months.

So, what do I choose for my words looking forward at 2019? What do I want to strive for and fight against?

I choose evolve, restore, and prevail.

  • Evolve means to grow out of some things, to transform. From speaking more about the power of machine learning and marketing to adding in a new fitness practice, I will evolve.
  • Restore means to fix and bring back to working order. Launching a new business is like becoming a parent all over again, with massive changes in responsibilities, and real day-to-day impact. I needed to sacrifice a lot to get Trust Insights off the ground, and in 2019, I will restore what I had to give up by creating even more value for the world.
  • Prevail means to win, typically against the odds. Whatever life throws at us, we prevail. I will prevail against any circumstances in 2019 to achieve my goals.

Here’s the plot twist for the three words exercise: consider how your three words will impact those you serve. I know what my words mean for me, but if I want them to become reality, I can’t do it alone, in a vacuum. I need the support of friends, community, and the world to achieve my goals. So, what do these mean for you?

  • Evolve means that what I’ll be creating and sharing professionally will be of even more benefit to you. The more I learn and grow, the better I can solve your problems.
  • Restore means that I need to create more value for the world. You only receive after you give, so I need to give more of what’s in my head and share that knowledge with you.
  • Prevail means that to win, I need to be more accessible to my community. In 2018, personal circumstances necessitated pulling back, but to win, we all need friends and allies, so in 2019 I need to push forward and be more present and visible.

What forms these words will take won’t be clear until the year progresses, but evolve, restore, and prevail will be my mantra and my mandate to serve you better, to help you more, to find ways to give you value. Thank you for being here, and let’s work together to make the new year our best year ever.


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