“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written.” — Melody Beattie
It’s how I put a bow on the last year, learn from the lessons, and carry the good forward.
It’s also a very different vantage point than looking back on a day, a week, a month, or a quarter.
Year End Reflection is a way to see the forest for the trees and really see the recurring patterns and the highlight.
And it’s a deeper way to practice gratitude by being grateful for the good, the bad, the ugly, and how I can use it to grow better.
How I Practice Year End Reflection
My process for year-end reflection is pretty simple and I shared it in my book, Getting Results the Agile Way long ago. I basically ask 3 key questions:
- What are 3 things that went well? (What are the 3 highlights?)
- What are 3 things to change or improve? (What did I learn from any lowlights or challenges?)
- What are 3 Wins you want to achieve this year? (What’s my bold ambition big dream for this year?)
Keep in mind, there is a lot more I often do, but I think those questions get to the heart of things pretty well.
1. What are 3 Things that Went Well?
This is my chance to practice an attitude of gratitude and really
With that in mind, here are 3 things going well over the past year:
- A refocus on speed
- Rebuilding my second brain for speed of insight and flow
- Building the skill of entrepreneurship
Here is a little overview of each thing…
A Refocus on Speed
Speed is a big advantage in so many things from learning faster to doing faster to being able to bring ideas to life faster.
But the big thing for me is that when I focus on speed, I feel lighter. Speed feels good. (And I’m in the John Wooden camp of “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” I don’t do “stressed speed”, I do “sustainable speed”.
It helps me ruthlessly focus on the essential and the minimum value. And it lets me try something multiple times and improve each time versus slog through something one time slowly and not get multiple chances to improve.
Here’s average speeds according to CharacChorder.com:
- 13 Words Per Minute – Writing
- 40 Words Per Minute – Typing on a QWERTY Keyboard
- 150 Words Per Minute – Speaking
- 250 Words Per Minute – Reading
- 300 Words Per Minute – CharaChorder (a new kind of keyboard to type at the speed of thought)
I have a lot of speed hacks. I started using my 20-Minute Writing Sprints again. I started practicing how to read 10,000 words per minute again. I started using information models again as a way to speed up thinking and insight and productivity. I’ve refocused on speed learning. I’ve refocused on speed thinking and how to think faster. I’ve refocused on speed of insight.
Working on speed helps reveal bottlenecks and waste. And it can help reveal what’s valuable.
The irony of course is that I usually slow down to speed up. But that’s part of the process and that’s what makes focusing on speed so effective.
Rebuilding my Second Brain for Speed of Insight and Flow
I’ve been building a Second Brain since the late 90’s at Microsoft. I’ve used so many different personal information management systems, but few have truly stood the test of time.
The big surprise for me is how changing my information structure dramatically changes how well I can use it.
I focus less on storage and more on finding and reuse. I focus on fast lookups and quick indexes to find deep information and to put new information together.
One pattern I’ve found over the years to learn any topic deeper is to create the following indexes:
- Key Insights
- Sites / Blogs
- Use Cases / Scenarios
Throw in an ontology/folksonomy/taxonomy and a Mind Map of the space and you’ve got yourself a mini world-class knowledge base for whatever topic you focus on.
What I’ve changed over the past year is an even stronger focus on turning information into actionable insights. Another key change is that I’ve been focused on “how to practice” vs. “how to learn”. I found that when I just try to “learn” something, I learn it at a certain intellectual level. But by starting right up front with a focus on “how to practice”, I learn at a much deeper level.
Building the Skill of Entrepreneurship
The surprise for me here is not just learning how to create passive income, but that everything I learn is a way to scale impact.
In a way, this future proofs me for a knowledge economy, and Peter Drucker was ahead of his time.
At Microsoft, I’ve long been an innovator, business developer, intrapreneur, and entrepreneur, including coaching others inside and outside of Microsoft.
But this past year, I learned a lot more about entrepreneurship by doing a lot more experimentation.
As a platform and patterns guy, I like to simplify and scale things in sustainable ways.
I do that through better systems, better strategies, and better skills.
For example, one thing I did differently is I hired SEO coaches to help me master SEO at a deeper level.
Every modern business is a social business and a digital business and SEO is the backbone of success.
I finally realized that SEO is not about the search engines—it’s about learning the language of the market and sizing demand and being relevant.
One of the most inspiring stories here is how an airline pilot quit his $300K per year job to master SEO and digital marketing.
Now he uses SEO to help any business grow by 20 percent. Talk about a super skill that never goes out of style.
When people ask me what to learn to future proof their success for the new economy and digital era, I say three things:
- Learn how to go from employee to entrepreneur (Even Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, asked his employees to become more entrepreneurial.)
- Master innovation. Innovation is a skill and you can build it to find your breakthroughs in business and in life. It never goes out of style. Lots of people play at it, but if you actually master it, you can change the world your way.
- Master digital marketing.
I think focusing more deeply on entrepreneurship helped me get to a very clear place and position on being future proof.
The irony of course is that Peter Drucker long ago said:
“Business has only two functions—marketing and innovation.”
And as I always say, “All paths lead to the same town.
2. What are 3 Things to Change or Improve?
So much to improve, so little time.
Here are 3 key things I want to improve:
- Rebuilding my routine for more flow
- Spend more time in strengths
- Scaling impact online
Here is a little overview of each improvement…
Rebuilding My Routine for More Flow
If there’s one thing that I keep learning and relearning it’s that to do great things, it takes great flow.
Flow is a psychological state where you are immersed in an activity because the challenge matches your skill level.
I’m pretty good about creating flow when I structure my work for it.
But it does take a bit of preparation and I’ve been doing a lot of experimentation beyond my comfort zone.
And I think that’s actually key.
As much as I flow my flow state, I also like to overwhelm myself so that I become something more through the process.
I have fallen into the trap of spending a lot of my cycles in flow where I enjoyed the time I spent, but I didn’t grow as much as I could have.
I find it’s about going to the edge of my abilities and playing with the boundaries.
Growth feels awkward. I’m comfortable with that. So much so that I need to really recharge myself with more flow.
As much as it’s great to swim in the deep end of the pool, I need to remind myself to also enjoy more flow.
Plus, flow is where my practice translates into my art and work becomes my greatest form of self-expression.
Spending More Time in My Strengths
This is absolutely my greatest advantage when it comes to super productivity and extreme results.
It’s one thing to know your strengths, but it’s another to spend time in them.
Spending more time in my strengths is the fastest way to recharge myself.
Plus, I grow better in my strengths than in my weaknesses.
I can spend all day in my strengths and get revitalized, whereas if I spend too much time in my weaknesses, I get exhausted.
Sometimes it just takes a creative reframe, but then I can find a way to turn some chunk of work into an exercise of my strengths.
And that’s where greatness happens.
Looking back, I would say that figuring out how to spend more time in my strengths was the biggest game changer in my career path at Microsoft.
I would say that it’s also the crux of the challenge many leaders face when they can’t attract and retain talent or get left by Quiet Quitters.
The power of organization is to supplement people so they can spend more time in their strengths.
That’s how you leverage humans doing what they do best, and that’s how you compound your productivity in exponential ways and attract the best of the best.
And momentum is contagious.
Scaling Impact Online
I need to scale better online. SEO will help. But I also need to get acquainted or reacquainted with more online platforms and channels.
LinkedIn is good for the connecting among the corporate arenas.
Twitter seems to be a good place to find the rest of the world.
YouTube seems like a nice evergreen place to share some videos.
And I’ve had multiple requests to share more through podcasts and slides.
I’m still exploring and experimenting here, but this year I’ll pull the trigger and really kick the tires much harder on a few online outlets.
I heard that Medium gives you a chance to reach 60 million readers, so that’s a pretty good stage, especially when you’re trying to change the world.
I wrote on Medium in the past, but I didn’t do things right as I was a noob but I think I can do much better this second time around.
I think I learned some very valuable tips from those that have made Medium a great place to share their wisdom.
3. What are 3 Wins you want to achieve this year?
I can’t wait to change the world. It’s what I do best. I’ve been working on some things that should help a lot of people.
Here are 3 Wins I want to achieve this year:
- Change how the world wakes up
- Change how the world does productivity
- Change how the world innovates
Here is a little overview of each one…
Change How the World Wakes Up
I want to change how the world wakes up.
I think now more than ever, the world needs a better way to start their day. If you can win your morning, you have a much better chance to win your day.
By starting with a simple, solid, startup routine, you can build your resilience, inspire your results, and create and operate at a higher level.
Of all the tools in my toolbox for sustainable high performance, my morning routine is probably the most important piece because of how it sets the stage for your day. I’ve explored and experimented with so many morning routines over 25 years at Microsoft. I’ve learned a lot about Larks vs. Owls, gratitude, meditation routines, sleep habits, exercise routines, breathwork, and more. I’ve been tested in extreme scenarios.
I believe I have an approach that will change the game for many people around the world.
Change How the World Does Productivity
I want to change how the world does productivity.
I have an approach called Agile Results for sustainable high performance that works for individuals, teams, and leaders.
I’ve battle tested it over two decades with teams inside and outside of Microsoft. In the last few months, I trained more than 700+ individuals at Microsoft in the methodology.
More recently, I’ve had teams ask me to teach how to use Agile Results for wellness and mindfulness.
The good news is that I built Agile Results from the ground up with best practices from sports psychology and positive psychology.
Productivity is a team-sport, so I designed it to work well for teams, while empowering individuals to operate at a higher level.
Agile Results is purpose-driven so it helps people find meaning and purpose in their daily work while working towards bigger and longer-term goals.
It helps people renew and recharge and get a fresh start each day.
Best of all, Agile Results is more than ap productivity framework. I designed it as a personal growth framework to help you realize your potential the Agile Way.
Change How the World Innovates
I want to change how the world innovates.
I’ve seen innovators fired, sidelined and pushed out. Usually because they think differently.
And yet they are key to the future business.
My plan is to help innovation at 3 levels:
- Individual – help individuals become better innovators to channel their creativity into solving problems the market cares about. But really I want to help individuals become high performing innovators that are great influencers, great business developers and have great exec presence, and ability to share their ideas with skill and scale their impact.
- Team – help leader create high performance innovation teams that are more inclusive of cognitive diversity, and turn differences into strengths.
- Org – help orgs structure innovation through a better mental model so they can support both sustaining + disruptive innovation and be a true ambidextrous organization (run the business + change the business in parallel).
I have a lot of experience and success here, and a long track record at Microsoft of leading innovation, not just for digital transformation, but also to help leaders in every industry reimagine the future. And I also go to apply innovation to sustainability by helping customers establish innovation centers for sustainability.
Extreme Results: One Year of Impact in 3 Months
I’ve shared with some folks my strategy for how I optimize the year. Here is it in 3 simple steps:
- What do you want to achieve this year? Make a great list of impact for the year, something compelling and worth being excited about. Pretend its next year, and you are catching up with an old friend and they asked you what you have accomplished this past year. Maybe it’s a book or whatever is important that you want to be able to say you’ve accomplished.
- How to do it in 3 months? Figure out how you can do it in 3 months. Yes, that’s right. Compress that year’s list of results into 3 months. How will this change your strategy and approach? What assumptions will you need to change? What experiments will you need to try? This should help you think much bigger than you ever have before. Be bold here and rethink your game, so you can level up.
- How to enjoy it? How can you enjoy the process? That’s right. Now ask yourself, how can you actually enjoy the process of trying to execute and ship a year worth of impact in 3 months and enjoy it.
Let’s say you don’t succeed at squishing your year of results into a quarter. Will you learn a lot? You bet. Will you have fun trying? That’s up to you–you choose your attitude.
And guess what? Even if you don’t’ succeed, you now have another 3 quarters to try and improve.
And, as an alternative, you might use the first quarter of the year to explore and experiment, then use the next quarter to execute.
That’s my tried-and-true pattern for extreme results.
2023 is The Year of Great Transformation
I’ve been told I’m a force of nature, but really, I just channel my inspiration towards compelling outcomes and visions that are worth it.
I know for many work has been the “Great Resignation” and the economy has been the “Great Stagnation”, but it seems time for a renaissance.
Some say that more millionaires were created during the Great Depression, than any other time in American history. Whether that’s true or not, the point is that there is always opportunity–What does the market want now?
I find Maya Angelou’s words helpful here:
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
If you have faith in the future, you can transform yourself, transform your business, transform the world around you.
After all, you’re human and you have one of the greatest abilities in the world–the power of imagination.
All things are created twice: First in the mind, then in the world.
Who do you need to become so this is your greatest year ever?
That is the source and the fire in your belly to make this the year of Great Transformation.
Become the greatest version of yourself, find your voice and help others find theirs, and may the force be with you.
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