If you’re a fan of MJ or Lil Wayne, you’ve probably heard a song or two about a Mirror. Well, both songs happened to grace my headphones this past week and they cultivated some thoughts about my past, present and future. It just so happens that these thoughts came to my mind going into another year. This past year has been a wild ride and it’s a ride I don’t think I’ll ever get off of. A ride that I look at with some regret and some satisfaction.
Let me explain…
Over the last 365 days I’ve accomplished a handful of goals but have also been met with disappointment. It’s been a good year, don’t get me wrong. But I look at each day as simply a page in another chapter (or month) of my life. I have moments that provide me with great pride but others that make me shake my head and wish I had approached them differently.
Instead of using New Years to look back at this year and give myself a pat on the back, I look back and think about what I can do better moving forward and what key themes I can take from the last 365 days.
As I look forward and reflect, two things come to mind.
Doing Things, Changes Things
It’s a simple idea. And unfortunately, I can’t take complete credit for coming up with it as I found it on Quora:
Like most people, I’ve got tons of ideas. I’ve got a few projects I’d love to launch and a handful of people I’d love to work with. Every week I’m met with emails, calls and Facebook messages from people who want to run their idea by me or learn from me on how they can find success. Personally, I don’t think I have accomplished much for my age, but I try to constantly help people through this blog or an occasional email with my detailed thoughts and opinions.
One thing I’ve come to realize as I talk to others about my goals and their own is the importance of doing things.
The quote above, while from a fictional character, rings true to me in many ways.
The only time I feel as if I’m accomplishing something is when I’m doing things. When I’m creating value or when I’m providing a contribution to those around me whether it’s personal or professional. When I’m making a significant contribution to someone or something, I get excited. I constantly strive to strike the balance between the ongoing hustle and my search for optimal happiness. It’s challenging yet exhilarating.
This year, I’ve realized that we’re built to often think of time as something we can control. Hence the reason we talk so much about time management and how it’s important skill for every professional. But what does that even mean? Like seriously? Think about it. I think the entire concept of time management is backwards. You see, time cannot be managed. It’s a constant. The only thing that we can manage is ourselves and the way we allocate our attention and focus. It’s a balancing act that consists of removing distractions and having a clear focus on doing things that matter and saying no to those that don’t.
A few months ago, I received an email from a guy who wanted my thoughts on a blog he was thinking about starting that was focused around Fantasy Football. He was going to take data from a social media monitoring service like Salesforce and use it to predict the best starts of the week. It was a good idea. But he didn’t do anything with it. If you want to succeed, you have to do things. Things like ideas don’t matter, execution does. This is the reason why companies like Mint, Tesla and Square are doing so well – they do things.
Life is like Nintendo; Level Up
For Christmas, I went home to visit my parents. I stumbled upon a few old games like my Gameboy, Super Nintendo, Atari and my Nintendo 64. It brought back memories of playing these games a youngster and forcing my sister to always play as Diddy, Luigi or Tails. #YoungerSiblingProblems
In video games, leveling up is when you reach the end of a series of activities, overcome a big challenge, and then move to the next level. In most games, it’s very a distinct and defined moment. If I think back to games like Zelda, facing a “big boss” at the end of a level was your chance to prove that you’ve accomplished new skills and ultimately level-up to a new challenge. Real life doesn’t have such obvious transitions. That said, in the real world, we are met with opportunities to level up regularly but are also met with an opportunity to stand still.
I’ve come to realize that we as humans are geared to try and decrease our levels of stress and discomfort as much as possible. We embrace stability, pensions, comfort and easy to understand processes. It’s as if we’re hard wired to simply accept the way things are and accept status quo. In my experience however, life gets more interesting the more uncomfortable things get. So where am I going with this?
It’s that simple.
When you make a difficult decision, like deciding to speak in front of a crowd of 100 people or even adopt a kid; you’ve levelled up. You’ve taken on a new challenge and with the right frame of mind you have an opportunity to come out bigger, stronger, faster and better.
When I think of the biggest decisions I’ve made in my life, they’ve always made me uncomfortable. They made me look at the man in the mirror and make a decision that was difficult. Too many times I’ve made the decision to take the easy route instead of challenging myself and those around me to do something better. Whether it was a simple decision between studying or going out on the town or working 9-5 or jumping into the unknown of entrepreneurship; the idea of levelling up is something we face everyday.
Levelling up forces us to think creatively and use the skills we’ve developed in the past to overcome the “big bosses”. If you can consistently make conscious efforts to level up and face challenges head on; you will be met with an opportunity to become your best self. If you don’t, you will never reach your full potential and will forever be limited to the imagination of others rather than the imagination of yourself.
Like most of you, I’m looking forward to 2013 as I’m optimistic that it will most certainly be a monumental chapter. I look forward to doing things and potentially doing great things with all of you. I look forward to taking on new challenges and putting myself into situations that force me to level up.
So to all of you looking forward to the next few months, may you find the strength to do the things you’ve always wanted and the courage to take the roads less traveled. May you optimize your life with happiness and embrace the art of the hustle. As my headphones once said,
“I look in the mirror, My only opponent” – Jay Z
Remember, a new year will only bring new things if you’re willing to do new things. Challenge your teams, challenge your peers, challenge your dreams and challenge yourself. If you want the new year to bring you greatness, you have to start with the man (or woman) in the mirror.