…and away we go | Reflections on 2017

Newly engaged!

I wanted to go to Sydney, Australia, since before I ever left my home state as a kid. Travel books detailing the wonderment of Oceania line a bookshelf in my home. I started watching Australian news programs after college. Something about Australia was nested deeply in my soul calling me to visit.

Thirty-two years into my life I finally adventured to Australia and New Zealand. The trip capped off what has been an amazing — the Merriam-Webster ‘amazing’ — year.  The largest event being Leann and I returned as fiancés (to each other)! That’s right. She said ‘yes’ to a lifetime of me. I am working on switching referring to Leann as my fiancé, but I am beyond ebullient to continue our adventures together as spouses. For those who have met Leann, you know how lucky I am to be with someone as smart, giving, kind, beautiful and far better than I deserve. Many friends claimed they knew it was going to happen on this trip. I’m pretty sure there was a Superbowl Squares board with proposal countries or dates that family and friends were wagering. If not, I should’ve set that up to raise wedding money. Hindsight! I’m still figuring out how to best share the proposal story with you. We’re currently on a multi-city, Chicago suburb speaking tour. Comment for details on when we’ll be in a town near you.

I lament after each trip that I may never have enough time to share the experiences, photos and stories here. And this year was full of trips so I am full of laments. Pending any last-minute changes, I was on 21 flights this year! Not long ago I considered myself lucky to be on two flights a year.

Traveling is one of my biggest catalysts. Next to meeting and conversing with new people, traveling is my fuel. Through new places and new people, I learn about cultures, traditions, food and largely about myself.

Reflections on this stupendous year will be a departure from previous ruminations (2016, 2014). Instead, I’ll start with areas for improvement and then share some of my favorite experiences and photos in another post.

8 Ways to Improve in 2018

Far from the Eightfold Path, these eight areas of improvement all revolve around being better in different areas of my life.

  • Time management
  • Decisiveness
  • Philanthropy
  • Personal development
  • Professional development
  • Fitness
  • Cultivate relationships
  • Acceptance

time-management

Time Management

My goal isn’t to become Phileas Fogg or Frank Bunker Gilbreth. However, I would like to be better with time as it’s the one thing I can’t get more of. Every day and every second is a gift; a gift that is never guaranteed. Being more judicious and effective with time will enable me to achieve the other seven improvements. Some initial ideas: schedule my personal calendar as if it’s my work calendar. Blocking out units of time has been incredibly effective in my professional life. Now I will set time for me. The trick will be protecting and committing to these time blocks.

One of the best ways to free up time starts with…

Decisions

Decisiveness

I’ve decided to be more decisive. That took a year. I waste a lot of time deciding things. Things that largely don’t make as large a difference as the time spent on them. Exhibit A: what to eat. I would hate to see a time study of how much time I spend thinking about what or where to eat. Often, the time spent on deciding exceeds the time spent doing. In 2018, I will reserve deliberate thought to things of consequence.

g2crowd-greater-chicago-food-depository-904x509

Philanthropy

Accepting each second as a gift and being more selective on how I spend my time leads to devoting time and money to helping those in need. I am incredibly blessed and can do far more to help others. I was fortunate to participate in a few philanthropy events organized by G2 Crowd – Habitat for Humanity, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago Tech Academy. If you’d like to help in a very simple way, write a review of any software you use and G2 Crowd will donate $10 to rebuild homes destroyed by hurricanes in Haiti. In 2018, I will devote at least an hour a week to volunteering.

Personal Development

This blog totally counts for personal growth. I found an imbalance in where I spent my time this year. As much as I value learning new things and meeting new people, I didn’t devote time to do those things. Leann and I started this year with a commitment to do something new each month. That focus slipped by April and never came back. Especially as we move toward a shared life, it is important to me to cultivate new interests both individually and with Leann. Trying something new each month seems feasible IF I commit myself to it and set those new activities farther in advance. Some things I want to do more of: ceramics, storytelling, golf lessons, go to a Buddhist temple, learn more about stocks/finances. In 2018, I will try a new activity each month selecting the following month’s activity at least a month in advance.

Professional Development

See above, but change personal to professional. I started looking at MBA programs in June. There are a few courses that intrigue me and I’m not sure if a certificate program better meets my needs. Outside of a classroom setting, I would like to expand my professional network. Through my job, I get to meet great leaders and thinkers in the tech world. I have ideas brewing on how I can help these companies and share that learning. In 2018, I will set one professional conversation a month and take 1-2 courses in negotiation and management next year.

Fitness

There are two things I like to check at the end of every year: how much I spent on Mexican food and how many times I went to the gym. I enjoy fitness. I love Mexican food.

2018 Biz Idea worth hundreds of $$$: Taqueria/Gym. Treadmills deliver more chips and salsa after mileage milestones. The weight plates have burritos on them. Now accepting financiers.

This year I went to the gym 21 times and yoga 11 times. I paid for Mexican food 14 times and spent $178.96. Gym won the tug ‘o war, yet I wasn’t as active as I would like. I have yet to make the time to workout since commuting downtown for work.

2nd 2018 Biz Idea worth hundreds of $$$: Train/Gym. Train cars are converted into mobile gyms. Ellipticals and cardio machines somehow create stored energy to power the train. Access to the fitness cars requires monthly membership similar to other gyms.

In 2018, I will take the stairs one day a week and go to a gym Wednesday each week.

Cultivate Relationships

Two years ago I better realized the value close friends carry in getting you through low points. I made a concerted effort this year to devote more time to friends and being a better friend. Life’s joys are parabolic. Being there for the highs and lows is important. Friendship reminds me of the ocean waves. The waves come and go, but they are constant.  I learned a few things from a friend this year when we discussed changes in the intimacy of friends. He shared how friends who were absent from his life resurfaced after the birth of his first child. It wasn’t that they were any more or less friends as much as it was they were in different stages of their lives. Being mindful of the challenges and excitement going on in the lives of friends and family is integral in being a friend. In 2018, I will meet one friend a month for a catch-up/dinner/gym-taqueria session.

This leads to the final area of improvement…

Acceptance and Gratitude

So I threw in a ninth item. Acceptance and gratitude are two of the largest areas where I struggle. Accepting situations and people as they are is a huge challenge. This includes accepting myself. The mantras at yoga are good reminders that in order to fill someone else’s cup, I need to fill my well. All of the items I’ve outlined for improvement can be nestled under the en vogue mantra of mindfulness: being present and making the most of the time given.

I read the first 25 pages of “Why Buddhism is True” before I had to return it to the library. There are interesting nuggets about happiness and why we have evolved to chase joy/happiness/feeling good. The example of hunger is given. If we ate once and were satiated to the point of not needing food for a prolonged period of time, we wouldn’t go gather/hunt more food. Evolutionarily, we are built to be satiated for short periods of time so that we can grow the species, Robert Wright argues. The tenets of Buddhism align with releasing yourself from wanting.

In 2018, I will accept and be grateful for each experience I have, as well as accepting myself and those in my life.

Thank you for reading my ramblings and watching the garden updates this year. I am eager for the fresh calendar next year and the continuing adventures with Leann as we figure out how to plan a wedding.

I hope in 2018 we can spend more quality time together! If you have insights from improving these items in your life or would just like to catch-up, please let me know!

Sydney Shots