‘Set the Table’: 3 Words To Describe My 25th Year (and 2017)
It’s been a part of my end of year routine from 2013-2017 to (painstakingly) sum the year up with a 3-word memoir. Fortunately, my birthday and the New Year are only 2 days apart, so I can evaluate my 25th year and 2017 at the same.
Why do I do this? I don’t know. It’s just something I started doing. And 3 words is the cap because I’ve learned that fluff doesn’t do much good for anyone.
It’s become a useful exercise for remembering where my mind was throughout that year. More and more, I’m forgetting things. I live out of my planner. It drives my friends crazy when I don’t remember basic details. 3 words bring me right back to where I was that year.
It’s fun- and challenging- to simplify everything after you reflect on how much really happened.
An Example of 3 Words
In 2014, my 3-word memoir was “Success Leaves Clues”. This little exercise helps me remember that 2014 was the year I fell in love with reading books on personal development. I’ll remember that this was the year I decided to start a business. And those first actions and thoughts were the impetus for publishing my first book in 2015.
I’m a wordy person and generally take too long to make a point. I know this about myself, and it’s a work in progress. But this 3-word thing doesn’t let me fluff things up, so I keep doing it.
Now that 2017 is up, these are the 3 words I came up with:
‘Set The Table‘
Here’s how these 3 words describe 2017 and my 25th year:
“2017 Felt Like A Failure”
This thought has been in my head for months because 2017 felt very unproductive.
In some ways, it was. I spent the first 8 weeks of 2017 in Europe and didn’t set goals for the new year. I didn’t know what I wanted to achieve this year, only that I wanted to travel. And then this trip that was supposed to “solve everything” didn’t go at all like I planned. Such is life.
Instead of being a digital nomad in Thailand, I lived with my parents for 3 months in the spring. I was unemployed for 8 months in 2017 and broke for 3 of them. These were all tough pills to swallow and hard for my ego to overlook.
My 25th year was probably the least productive of my adult life. But it was by far the most insightful, because I stopped measuring success solely by how productive I was.
This year taught me that what matters most is understanding that your time is so, so valuable. You must do the right things with the time you have without making excuses, and the right things aren’t always the most productive.
I Crave Instant Gratification
This has both benefited and plagued me my whole life. On the one hand, I was gifted with the work ethic to do things others simply won’t in pursuit of a goal. When I want something, I generally make it happen. It’s for this reason that I’m focused on acquiring strategies for self-made people.
On the other, I have a personality that closely mirrors an addict. I’ve applied that insatiable work ethic to a lot of cheap thrills, which has meant chasing shiny objects and things that don’t matter. I only became aware of that this year.
This year was insightful because I began setting my sails towards things that matter. But things that matter take time, and you can’t muscle your way through them.
So what is the Type-A, obsessive person to do?
He’s to wait, and keep waiting even though it’s painful. He’s to question why he’s waiting, or if it’s worth it.
But ultimately, he’s to keep waiting. He’s to call himself on his own bullshit. He’s to tell himself that if this is what he really wants, waiting will be worth it.
I wrote on an Instagram post right before I left for Europe that, “I want to look back ten years from now and feel like this trip was around the time I started to “figure it out“.
This experience is an investment. My goal is to learn and to grow and to make memories. I want to look back ten years from now and feel like this trip was around the time I started to “figure it out”. A one way ticket to London, 5 months through Europe and southeast Asia, and a backpack to call home. See you on the other side. 🇺🇸✌
It didn’t take 10 years. The process began in February 2017. I had been back from Europe for maybe 10 days. This was when I decided it was time to pursue the career path I’ve been putting off for years.
And once I figured it out, I got to work. A lot of that work has been simply waiting.
This decision set the table for not only 2017, but for many years to come.
Mastery, A “Purpose”, 10,000 Hours… Whatever You Want To Call It
In 2018, I will start working towards a doctorate degree. In a few months, I’ll know more about where that will happen, but at the moment, it’s a waiting game.
And for me, that’s harder than 5 more years of school. It’s more challenging than doing research and writing essays. It’s harder than moving again or being 31 years old by the time I’m writing a dissertation.
Those things are what excite me most. They are pieces to a puzzle that will lead me down the right path.
The idea of mastery became real this year. Somehow, I’ve always known that dedicating my life to the pursuit of a craft would be my path. I’ve sacrificed a lot already and accept that there’s still so much more to go.
I’m not going back to school to get average grades or to increase my salary. I already make enough to support myself without help from anyone else. I’m going back to become a world-class professional and to start mastering a craft. That’s my goal, and it’s merely a 5-year snapshot into what will ultimately make up the rest of my life.
Some great resources that shaped my perspective in 2017 on mastery include:
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Netflix documentary, one of the best I’ve ever seen)
- Michael Gervais’ podcast (sport psychologist for the Seattle Seahawks) “Finding Mastery” on iTunes
- Mastery by Robert Greene (click the image below)
I’ve done a lot of work to set the table for this life change- to start pursuing mastery. It has been a lot less productive and required faith that things will work out. But it never not felt worth it.
There’s No Hiding From The Work
I think about this every day. At a certain point, there is no more second-guessing your efforts.
Did you do the work that matters that day, or not?
It’s a yes or no question.
This question has become a filter for my daily life. I’d encourage former versions of myself to adopt this filter if I could, as well as anyone reading this. It prevents me from telling myself stories. I focus more on what’s really happening around me because I ask this question every day.
Creative People Win In Life
A surplus of resourcefulness can overcome a lack of resources. My “year off” budget ran dry around July 2017, and my business had fallen off because I let travel and other things get in the way.
Being broke is the best thing that has happened to me since I became self-employed. It forced me out of my comfort zone and made me redefine who I was and how I could feasibly make money with my skill sets.
Earlier this year I published a post about how I made $4k Working Odd Jobs During Summer 2017. I needed money right away and this was how I did it. Mr. “Life Coach” was forced to sell himself for $25/hour to pick weeds, mow lawns, and walk dogs. At year’s end, that $4k sum is now closer to $11k, simply from saying yes to work I haven’t really asked for since summer.
It doesn’t matter who you are. That’s a good chunk of money, especially for people with no leg up in life. And more importantly, it’s an approach that anyone reading this can replicate. Even now that business is good again, I’ll continue working odd jobs until I’m back in school. It’s taught me so much about being self-employed that online entrepreneurship never has.
I was struggling to sell coaching, so I started selling myself as a writer. Fast forward 5 months, and I’m making more money now than ever before with fewer clients. My self-employed income increased almost 600% from 2016, and half of that is from freelance writing.
I struggled for a long time thinking of doing anything other than coaching people for money. I so badly wanted things to work out like I had pictured they would. But once I took the opportunity in front of me, things took off. This lesson applies to all areas of life. Don’t let your ego get in the way of common sense. And above all…
I think the most important thing I’ve learned about entrepreneurship (and life) this year is to be yourself. You hear others say it’s important, but most people aim blindly at it until they experience it first-hand.
I’m not a life coach and I’m certainly no guru. For the first 2 years of my journey with entrepreneurship, part of me was trying to be like Ryan from The Office:
Even at the beginning of 2017, I still hadn’t figured myself out and didn’t know what service I could offer to the world.
It’s funny what shoveling shit and mowing lawns for 2 months can do for you. It woke me up to the fact that I’ve been the same thing for 9 years. I’m a coach. I’d like to call myself a writer too, but I’m more of a coach than a writer. I’m only good enough at writing that people pay me for it.
Once you shed the fake stuff, the real stuff has a way of shining through. The right people seem to find you. You stop searching for anyone that will listen. It took 3 years for me to wake up to this, but “making it” in this world of uncertainty has never felt more possible. I’m no longer hoping to do it- I’m doing it.
How I’ve ‘Set The Table’ for 26
2017 (and year 25) weren’t productive, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fruitful year. Sure, there were not as many “breakthrough achievements” like there were in 2015 and 2016. There certainly were far less shiny objects to throw my time and energy into, which was good for me and good for the world.
But year 25 was special because I began living life through a new series of paradigms. 2017 ‘set the table’ for a very real pursuit that I’m chomping at the bit to begin. I’m on a unique journey, pursuing something that only I’m qualified to pursue. It’s a path that’s shared with others, but only I can reach the top.
Much of 26 will be about continuing to set the same table. But the foundation is in place, and it’s only up from here.
Happy New Year to you all.