Every year I sit down and review the previous year.
What did I accomplish? What value did I add for my clients and students? Let’s talk about the awesome things that make me want to pull out my favorite old school hip hop songs and dance around the house like nobody is watching except for a slightly judgemental dog?
What did I learn? What can I improve? And, most importantly, what do I want the next year to look like?
This year was no different. While I was still in Santa Cruz for the holidays, I escaped to a small cafe and settled in at a high-top table with a stack of blank paper, colored sharpies, and a coconut milk latte.
Still recovering from a cold that had me in its grips for a few weeks now, I was struck with the grim reminder that I have spent the past few months committing every error made by the ghosts of entrepreneurs past.
- “Don’t let your health slide,” they said.
- “If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.”
- “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your clients.”
- “Always start each day before your alarm and go to the gym, meditate, go for a run, eat a good breakfast, play with your kids, go surfing, or hug your wife.” (B
ecauselet’s face it, the ghosts of entrepreneurs past are always men).
I’ve heard all the warnings. And yet, I still said yes to teaching, yes to new clients I love, love, love, and yes to networking events.
In doing so, I said no to me. Self-awareness is a bitch when she’s ignored.
Feel free to cue the violin.
Without further stories, I present to you my 3 Words of 2019, written in Sharpie (which makes it more real) and fueled by coffee and cold/cough medicine.
What is this Whole “3 Words” Thing?
Every year, instead of making resolutions, I pick three words to guide my year. Inspired by Chris Brogan, I have been using three words to guide my year since 2014. Each year I get better at it. The idea is deceptively simple. You select three words that become your compass throughout the year. They become my mantra and guide for how I want to live my life that year.
“Choose 3 words (not 1, not 4) that will help guide your choices and actions day to day. Think of them as lighthouses. “Should I say yes to this project?” “Well, does this align with my three words?”
– Chris Brogan
Why 3 Words
In my mind, the three words form a pyramid that I can lean on. One word doesn’t leave me any room, two words, seems unfinished. As if I was going to balance something on them, only to have it fall off. Four words become cumbersome in the way of, “wait, what was that again?” At that point, I’m nearly 2/3 of the way to trying to name the seven dwarfs, and who wants to try to do that every day?
MY Three Words from Previous Years
- 2014: 300. Learn. Focus.
- 2015: Do. Believe. Expand.
- 2017: Bold. Consistent. Vulnerable.
- 2018: Breath. Build. Slay.
I loved my 2018 words. Slaying everything in front of me filled me with power and joy every morning when I came face-to-face with my words.
Part of me wanted to keep using them. But since I basically dropped the “breath” word when things got busy, I decided to take a new tact that was more me. Breath was a lovely word, but it was more of who I wanted to be and less about who I am.
How it Works
Every year I go through the same process to define my 3 words. Not once have I deviated from it, even when I don’t look at the list. It happened organically and somehow it remains organic and consistent.
- Brainstorm a list of words I like and will be okay looking at them every day for next year. Get rid of any words that may begin to annoy you part way through the year. Trust me on this one.
- Select keywords from the list and create a mind map for each one. Sometimes words I think are awesome only end up with a few words in the mind map. I get rid of these. Narrowing it down to three words requires them to apply to many different aspects of my life. To help structure my thoughts this year so all my words weren’t work-related, I looked at my life from all angles – career, business, physical, mental, spiritual, social, altruistic, etc.
- Narrow down selected words
- Align with goals/direction/purpose (new)
- Finalize list
- Define what they mean to me.
- Write them down so they’re accessible everywhere
- Write them down daily, often assigning a different word to how I want to approach the day.
My 3 Words for 2019
The majority of my career has been spent making other people or businesses look good. As much as I love talking and joking around, it is challenging to push myself into the spotlight, to share more than I often want to share, and to show up more consistently, rather than defaulting back to my client work.
This word was the easiest word for me to come up with this year and will likely be the most challenging for me to do. It means: more writing, more posting, more videos, more public speaking, more, more, more. And more of it consistently. So grab the popcorn and sit back, because you’re going to be seeing me around a lot more often.
As in, I want to build a business and a life that is sustainable and one I want to live. This word was a challenge to find and I considered words like scale, growth, build, and even revenue. But this year, it all points towards creating the processes and structure that allows me to add the best possible value to my clients and students in a way that can be sustained. That requires revenue, resources, time, and growth. It requires me to focus and build out the best for long-term growth.
This word took the longest because ultimately it is about self-care. It is a reminder to make choices that will help me be stronger, rested, and healthy. It reminds me to do more of the things I love, one of which is paddling outrigger canoes with my friends. Many friends don’t know that I have spent much of my life on the water, from racing crew in college to racing outrigger canoes around Southern California (and once in New Zealand). I’ve missed it the past few years, and I want that part of me back.
There is a power and beauty in paddling canoes across the ocean with only me and five friends in the canoe. We have to work together to get where we’re going, paddling “six as one.” Our timing, the rhythm, and our strength needs to be matched as closely as possible. And when it all comes together, it is exhilarating.
This word reminds me to take care of myself so that I can jump back in the boats and paddle with strength, heart, and fearlessness. I want to be ready!
Those are my 3 Words for 2019.
I’m ready, and 2019, I have my eye on you. We’re going to be amazing.