“There are basically three really big decisions you make in your life: where you live, who you’re with, and what you’re doing.” – Naval Ravikant
The last month of 2023.
I hope you’re taking some time to slow down and enjoy the holidays.
Over here, we’re putting lights on the tree, attending holiday parties, and celebrating another year of deepening friendships, community, travel, time with our pups, time with family, and all the ebbs & flows of life.
There’s plenty to be concerned about in our world right now but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t count our blessings and have a little fun along the way.
This year has been a mix of joy, adventure, uncertainty, and mostly good stuff.
Every year I like to reflect on the past 12 months and gather insights that allow me to move forward with a greater sense of joy, intention, clarity, and overall well-being.
I usually don’t share this exercise publicly but this year I decided to do it because it just felt right.
Here’s my process…
Step 1: What worked well?
I like to start by remembering the things that stood out (in a good way), excited me, moved the needle, and that I really enjoyed doing.
- Travel & Adventure – This is a big priority for Jill and I and in 2023 we traveled to Lake Tahoe, Puerto Vallarta, San Pancho, Utah (skiing), Bend, La Grande, Costa Rica, Walla Walla wine country, Oregon coast, Croatia, Amsterdam, and Las Vegas.
- Business – I continued to enjoy working in partnership with other coaches. Jill, Mary-Beth, and I refined much of our work and delivered it to leadership teams while Jill and I continued our work with government and company leaders as well as entrepreneurs. I’m also working independently with a handful of clients and this mix feels really good. While the final tally isn’t in yet, 2023 will represent one of my best years in business.
- Leverage – As an entrepreneur, I’m always considering how I can work less, earn more, and enjoy life to the fullest. This past year, I’ve engaged in more win/win partnerships and collaborations than ever. It’s been a proven way for me to achieve more impact while letting go of trying to do everything myself. I’ve partnered (very selectively) with two other coaches (Jill Knouse and Mary-Beth Frerichs) and another organization to achieve the important metrics I mentioned above.
- Family & Friends – This has been a weird one for me this year. I’ve generally spent less time with fewer people this year – choosing to be more intentional and saying ‘no’ a lot more. As a recovering people pleaser and extroverted-leaning person, it has felt strangely good to protect my time and scale back my social endeavors.
- Health & Wellness – I felt good, got a lot of sleep, moved a lot, and brought my cholesterol levels waaaay down. I started going to group fitness classes again and began working with a personal trainer. What a difference this has made for my motivation and overall fitness level! A big win was working with my naturopathic doctor to make some lifestyle changes (mostly food, sleep, and movement) to naturally reduce cholesterol and inflammation. I was able to improve all of my key health markers significantly without taking any prescription drugs.
- Ski Days – This might seem silly but it’s one of the metrics I use for assessing my overall joy and quality of life. This year I logged 16 ski days split between Utah and Mt Hood. It’s one of my better years as of late but if I’m honest, 25 days on the mountain is my sweet spot.
Step 2: What’s not working?
It’s also important for me to look at the things that didn’t work so well or go as planned. I want to acknowledge where things felt ‘off’ or like a waste of time and energy. I want to look closely at the things I didn’t enjoy and eliminate any activities, people, or processes that are out of alignment with my goals and preferences.
NOTE: This section is usually way harder for me because I like to focus on the positive side of life. However, I know that ignoring the things that aren’t working for me is a recipe for resentment.
- City Life – This year I realized that the energy of living in the city is no longer aligned. This has been a slow build. While I appreciate many of the amenities, I want more space to spread out, breathe, and just BE. I’m over the traffic, noise, and general hurried nature of living in an urban area. The mountains are calling and I’m listening.
- Rain and Gloom – Living in the Pacific Northwest has its perks, but living in a rain shadow (Portland) isn’t one of them. If it weren’t for the regular travel we do, I’d have gone stir crazy by now. You’d think I would be used to all the sunless days by now but it just hasn’t normalized for me. It affects my mood and I’d rather wake up to gleaming sunlight vs endless days of “barely light.”
- Family Illness – This is one I can’t do much about but it’s a drag nonetheless. It’s hard to watch a family member go through a tough diagnosis and have uncertainty about the outcome. On the flip side, this really puts things in perspective and has me cherishing small moments that I used to take for granted.
- Not enough downtime – I can hear you already. “But, Michael …you traveled all over the world!” True, but my work is location independent which means I’m usually working while I’m traveling. Bottom line is that my calendar was a bit too full and while I love my work, too much of a good thing is ultimately not a good thing. My ideal workweek is closer to 30 hours a week and I’ve got some work to do to make this happen.
Step 3: Looking forward
After reflecting on the two questions above, I’ve come to some conclusions about how I’d like to shape the coming year.
Which activities do I want to continue or double down on?
This is my opportunity to get specific about the activities or processes that worked really well.
- I enjoyed the amount of travel and adventure in the past year. I want to continue this in the year ahead and we already have trips booked to Mexico, Greece, Costa Rica, Utah, Arizona, and Bend.
- I will continue to partner with other coaches. I’ll continue to work with Jill when coaching entrepreneurs and I’ll continue to work with Jill and Mary-Beth in select opportunities with executive and leadership teams.
- I will continue to guard my time and energy. This means spending less time with fewer people. This also means saying ‘no’ a lot which I’m getting better at.
- I will double down on exercise, continuing to work with a personal trainer and creating more time to be outside. I will continue my sleep habit of getting 8-9 hours per night.
- I will continue my morning meditation routine. It’s been an effective way to start the day and feel more grounded overall.
- I’ve already blocked out 20+ ski days on the calendar for this year. The only way to boost this higher is to move closer to a ski mountain or go live in a mountain town for part of the year. Hmmm …food for thought.
What do I need to minimize or cut?
This step is hard but necessary. Every year I find things that I THINK are important but actually aren’t serving me or producing the intended results. It’s important to be brutally honest and scale back or eliminate these.
- Taxes. This might seem like a funny way to lead off but I’ve embarrassingly been operating as a solo-LLC for 10 years and it’s time to let that go and operate as an S-Corp. I live in a tax happy state and city and this will save me a sizable amount while allowing me to operate more like a real business.
- I need to minimize my time in the city. Other than travel, I’ll invest time solving for this. Reading this book will be a good start.
- Related to the one above, I need to spend less days in the rain. It either rains or is overcast 221 days per year where I live. Ideally, I’d cut this by half through some combination of travel and living somewhere else for part of the year. This will be a work in progress.
- I need to cut back the hours I’m working. I’ll do this through business redesign and partnerships. I’ll lean into more opportunities that involve leverage vs trading my time for dollars.
- I will say ‘no’ to people emailing me and wanting some of my time. I enjoy connecting with peers from time-to-time, but if you’re looking to build a relationship, please add value over time before asking me for something. I realize this makes me sound like an entitled brat, but I’m going to let you in on a secret that I’m getting better at. The more I limit what I say ‘yes’ to, the better I get at those things. I can add more value by doing less, not more.
What new activities do I want (or need) to add?
Are there any new things I’d like to learn or implement or focus on? I need to be really careful with this one and not overcommit, but this is where I decide what to add to my plate – very intentionally.
- Daily walks – I want to take more walks. Jill and I walk the dogs every day but I want to increase this form of movement. I think more clearly, feel better, and enjoy life when I spend more time outside moving.
- Writing – I tried to get into a regular writing groove this year but it never fully took hold. Writing has been a proven way for me to evolve ideas, solve problems, and feel more creative. I intend to get back to writing a regular newsletter and sharing short-form content (mostly on LinkedIn) in 2024.
- Reading for fun – I love reading but it always seems to find its way to the bottom of my priority list. This year I will intentionally carve out more time for reading and read more for fun than anything else.
- Revive Coaching Immersions – Back in 2017, I supported my clients with year-long coaching immersions that included personal retreats to places like Sedona, San Diego, Venice Beach, Bellingham, WA, Victoria B.C., the Oregon Coast, Bend, Hood River, and Oregon wine country. These were very intimate, highly effective engagements. Jill and I are bringing a limited number of these experiences back in 2024 (likely no more than three for the year). If you’re interested, give me a shout and let’s talk. They will include coaching from both Jill and I as well as a customized personal retreat and access to one of Jill’s yoga adventure retreats. We’re very excited about this one!
- Slow Living and Highly Effective Working – On a recent trip to Europe I was mesmerized at how intentional the people are about living and enjoying their lives. Enjoying a cappuccino isn’t rushed. In fact, most cafe’s in Croatia didn’t even offer a ‘to-go’ option. Something I heard over and over; “Coffee is meant to be enjoyed and not rushed.” Meals aren’t rushed. Conversations aren’t rushed. Life isn’t rushed (except for the bike lanes in Amsterdam). I want to slow things down and fully enjoy them. To do this (ironically), I’ll need to be much more disciplined about how I work. This will include protecting my high-energy focus time, eliminating as many digital distractions as possible, and streamlining any activities I do more than three times.
- More time with family – Many are familiar with the infamous article called ‘The Tail End.’ It created quite a stir when it came out nearly a decade ago. I dare you to read it and not have your life perspective shifted. I often think of this article when it comes to the time I spend with family members. After graduating from high school I’ve essentially used up 93% of the time I’ll spend with my parents and siblings. And that’s assuming they live an average lifespan and that I spend 10 full days with them a year until they’re gone.
As you wind down the year and look towards the next one, I hope these reflection questions will inspire you to be more deliberate and focused.
We all have so much beauty and magic to share with the world and it deserves your attention and devotion.
I’d love to hear what you’re most inspired to accomplish in the year ahead.
Hit reply and let me know.