I’ve been a big fan of keeping a notebook/journal for a number of years. Over time I have developed a loose format/structure for this that seems to work for me (more on this in a future post).
In the last few days, as part of my end-of-year reflection, I re-read all of my notebooks for 2017 and compiled a list of my top weekly wins and lessons learned – roughly one for each month of the year.
My weekly wins are sometimes achievements but can also be positive memories or just small things that made me smile. Lessons learned are thoughts/quotes and ideas that have struck a chord with me enough to make me want to record them. These can come from a variety of sources – my own thoughts and experiences, conversations with others, podcasts, books, and even animated films about animals learning martial arts!
Here are my choices for 2017:
- A wintry day out in Durham with my wife Elaine on 2nd January, including a walk along the river to the bench where we shared our first kiss.
- A weekend away in Manchester for Elaine’s birthday. Exploring a new city is one of our favourite things to do and this trip included plenty of nice food, drinks, culture, museums and great music.
- Getting a new job/promotion at work and receiving extremely positive feedback about my interview.
- Organising an event for hundreds of children in Northumberland to come from different schools and sing together, backed by a live band of high school students.
- Fulfilling a goal I set shortly after our wedding – to take Elaine back to Paris (where we spent our honeymoon) for our fifth anniversary, having planned and saved for 18 months.
- A day trip to Wylam summer fair, catching up with family and friends, buying books, reading, a train trip and plenty of good food and drink.
- A road trip to Edinburgh Jazz Festival to see Mike Stern, John Scofield, Randy Brecker, Dennis Chambers and Lenny White perform.
- Our unexpected ‘bonus’ summer holiday in Argeles Sur Mer, spending some great quality relaxation time with the family, and as a couple. We thought we’d had our main holiday in May and this trip was fantastic.
- Completing my third Great North Run, raising money for Crisis and surprising myself by achieving a time of 1:39.
- A city break in Liverpool with Elaine, enjoying the city’s culture and hospitality together.
- Family nights out in November – Jason Manford, Jon Ronson, Billy Bragg and fun at The Steamboat (our local pub).
- A terrific, and very funny night with the wider family, seeing the London African Gospel Choir perform Paul Simon’s Graceland album at the Wylam Brewery in Newcastle.
- I’m only in control of two things – my actions and my reactions. Take full control and full ownership of both. Are they in line with my values/the sort of person I aspire to be? If not… change them!
- Live life for a living. Whatever you’re doing, do it 100% When you work, work. When you’re with family, be with family. When you rest, rest. Be totally present and committed. Do one thing at a time and do it as well as you possibly can.
- Be proactive and exercise personal discipline. Easy Choices = Hard Life, Hard Choices = Easy Life
- Consistently seek bigger and bolder challenges. It is in working towards and achieving these that I get most growth, and most satisfaction/reward. Purpose/structure is essential for me to feel happy. I need to feel a sense of progress. I’m not at my best, or happiest when I have too much ‘freedom’.
- Ask yourself periodically “What impact do you want to have on the world?” and also ask daily “What impact do I want to have on the world today?” This is also useful as a reflective question: “What impact did I have on the world today?” Use these as journal prompts.
- Life goals – 1) Build relationships 2) Help people/make a contribution 3) Create amazing experiences/memories. Set at least one goal each year that will truly stretch you.
- “If you wait for things to happen to you, they will happen alright but they won’t be what you like and they certainly won’t bring you success. Initiative means seeing at once and very quickly what needs to be done, making up your mind to do it and then seeing it through to the bitter end.” (from the book Serve to Lead.) Come up with a strategy. Execute. Repeat – Take action habitually. Don’t wait for others. Be the chess player, not the piece. Don’t wait for external events to move you. Create your reality.
- “Never fail due to a lack of effort, because effort requires no skill. A lot of people fear that they’re not intelligent or they don’t have any special skills so they’re not going to try, but the greatest thing about trying hard is that you don’t need any of that stuff. You just need to try hard. It’s okay to fail, but it’s not okay to fail because you didn’t try hard enough.” Sam Dogen – Interview with Noah Kagan
- Do away with a ‘to-do’ list and have a ‘must-do’ list instead – maximum 3-5 items. Create this at the end of each day, and make sure to complete it the following day. Use a prioritised master list to identify the ‘must do’ items. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
- Leadership isn’t something you are (or aren’t) born with. Leadership is a choice. It starts with self-leadership. Are you going to choose to get up early, exercise, eat right, get your work done? Or not? You need to set a standard/lead by example. When things go wrong, you have a few choices: Make excuses, blame others, complain… or take responsibility and take ownership. Which of these presents the greatest challenge? Which will make you stronger and better? It isn’t enough to take responsibility (“Sorry, this is my fault.”) You also need to also take ownership (“…and here’s what I am going to do to make it right.”)
- “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anais Nin
- View all of life’s struggles as (mostly) fun challenges to be overcome, on the road to improving yourself, and the world. Be courageous enough to accept that even the biggest challenges (loss of career, relationships etc.) may contain the biggest learning/improvement opportunities. Keep the faith that these events, and your responses to them will ultimately teach and serve you. Enjoy the process and keep at it. (Be like Kung Fu Panda!)