Well 2015 was one hell of a ride. My first year in the real world, where everything gets real, yo. Really fun and really not fun, depending on your perception (more on this below).
I think my first year in the real world, and in New York especially, has caused me to grow up faster than I could have imagined. At least that’s what I’m telling myself as these grey hairs keep sprouting up…
I’ve learned a lot this past year – about myself, about the world… about gratitude for $1 pizza. My hope is the many lessons that I’ve learned this year will help you in some way, shape or form.
Some awesome things happened:
- Moved to New York City and became a contributing member to society (debatable)
- I (with your help) raised $2,274 to help fund the development of schools for underserved children with Pencils of Promise
- Traveled to six different countries, three continents and did some pretty cool things: Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Israel, England and… Colorado?
- Started my own business….
Some not so awesome things happened:
- My Grandpa, Richard Kohn, passed away
- Entrepreneur and world-changer Scott Dinsmore passed away
- …my business failed!
This post is just over 2,000 words. If you’re anything like me, you enjoy learning from others successes, and more importantly, failures. Failures made up a large part of my 2015, so I’m confident you’ll find some value in the lessons I learned.
To summarize, here are the topics we’re going to touch on from 2015:
- Fun Things
- On Loss
- Starting a Business… and Failing Fast
- The Importance of Perception
- 2016: Limiting Myself to the Essential
- 6 Step Goal Planning Worksheet
One more thing…
To help you make this year the best one yet, I’ve put together a 6-step worksheet to help you plan and achieve your goals for 2016.
It includes six proven steps to increase your chances of success and also includes six research-tested motivation hacks.
For the second year in a row, I launched a 24th birthday fundraiser with Pencils of Promise (PoP to help them fund the development of schools for underserved children in Laos, Guatemala and Ghana. With help from awesome people like you, we were able to raise $2,274 and helped PoP exceed their goal of developing 30 schools during the holiday season. Thank you so much, again.
Equally as awesome, I joined PoP’s Leadership Council, a group of amazing people committed to hosting awesome fundraising events throughout the city. It’s been a joy collaborating and strategizing with like-minds for such a worthy cause. There is something deeply fulfilling about working with those you enjoy being around for a worthy cause. I encourage you to find one and an awesome group of people to do the same.
This past year I was lucky enough to travel to Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, London, Israel and Colorado. I could write several post’s worth of content about each destination, but I’ll just share a few major highlights with you.
A few major highlights:
- Scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef
- Hung out with Big Ben in London
- Ziplined with my family through the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland, Australia
- Ate my first (and second) Fergburger and hang glided in Queenstown, New Zealand
- Rode a camel, visited the Holy City (Jerusalem) and floated in the Dead Sea
- Shredded the gnar in the Rockies in Breckenridge, Colorado
- Spent Halloween weekend with amigos in Cozumel, Mexico
On February 3rd, 2015 my Grandpa passed away. It was a sad, but beautiful experience. I did my best to recount my Grandpa’s passing and wrote him a tribute which many of you have read. I am very thankful for the time I had with my Grandpa before he passed – we shared many memories in his final days that I will never forget.
As it turns out, my fondest memory of my Grandpa was cracking up hysterically to Jackass’ Bad Grandpa a few months prior while home in Maryland for Thanksgiving. I am so glad I was able to drop everything, chill out and have some good laughs with my Grandpa while watching Johnny Knoxville get his junk stuck in vending machines…
This served as another sobering reminder to improve our relationship with the all too evasive present moment. The present moment – not what happened yesterday, not what’s going on tomorrow or next weekend or that deadline you have to meet for work – but right now, the present. It’s all we have, so treat it well.
Next time you’re with your grandma, grandpa or older relative watching ridiculously inappropriate comedy, put the phone down. Enjoy each each other. Enjoy the moment, no matter how NSFW things get. You just might treasure this memory forever.
A few months after my Grandpa passed, I received news that one of my biggest role models, Scott Dinsmore, passed away at the young age of 33. For those of you unfamiliar with Scott and his work, find his incredible TedTalk below that has been enjoyed my many millions of people and only cemented his legacy as a world-changer.
As a 24-year old just starting to map out the trajectory of my life, Scott’s passing showed me that what truly matters in the end — devoting our lives to doing work that truly matters and leaving a legacy that lives on in the hearts and minds of others.
A few years ago I heard the motto, “Live for your legacy, not your resume.” It’s a phrase that crosses my mind often, sometimes daily.
Think about it. What do you want to be remembered by? The world’s best (insert job title here) or someone that made a real, tangible difference in the lives of others? Now I don’t think this is an either-or scenario. You can be and do both. I know plenty people who have, and they inspire me daily.
Awareness is the first step, taking action is the next.
Starting a Business… and Failing Fast
As I mentioned above, I started a new business this year.
Aw, yeah. That’s me. I’m a hot-shot business owner. I hand out business cards to people. I’m legit. This round’s on me…
Well, six months later, at 24-years old I’m now a failed business owner.
I feel like I could write a dictionary-thick book about this experience. It was exciting. It was hectic (especially working full-time while managing a business on the side). It was thrilling. It was frustrating. It didn’t take me long to get my ass kicked.
One week after my business partner and I launched our business, we closed a $5,000 deal! …only to have the project go to shit shortly thereafter.
Without getting into too much detail, the project was an epic failure by most definitions of the world. Welcome to the world of entrepreneurship, eh?
Six months later, I made the call to break up the partnership. While we managed to make several thousand dollars across a few different clients, things weren’t working out between my partner and I. We simply weren’t improving in areas that we should have been.
Now, there is absolutely no substitute for real world experience, er, real world fuck up’s. This experience taught me just that. It also made one thing very clear…
No one but yourself is going to allow you to achieve your goals.
No shortcuts, no silver bullets, no free handouts. You are your biggest opponent, your biggest obstacle, but also your biggest fan and motivator.
I took a big risk, started a business before I was ready and I lost thousands of dollars because of it. But at the end of the day I am going to be much more successful because of this experience. Plus, I’m twenty four. What better time than now to royally fuck up?
You say I failed. I say I took a risk that most haven’t (or will never take), gave it my best shot and learned a whole hell of a lot. To me, that is a success.
Learn from me. Take action, fuck up, then shake it off. You’ll be many times more successful because of your experience.
If you spend your twenties and thirties afraid of taking risks, you’ll spend your fourties in regret.
The Importance of Perception
As cliche as it sounds, the not so awesome things that happened to me made the biggest impact and sparked the real, undeniable growth.
I just finished reading two books inspired by the ancient Greek philisophy of Stoicism – Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way and Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. The Stoics focus on things within their control and let go of that which they can’t, while transforming any obstacle that they encounter into an opportunity. An opportunity to get better, stronger and tougher. In short, they teach you how to create an invincible mind.
“It can ruin your life only if it ruins your character. – Marcus Aurelius”
So when I talk about the not so awesome things that happened to me this year, that’s not the best way to describe them. That’s because those events are neither negative nor positive, neither good nor bad.
Your perception of these events determines whether you classify them as negative or use them to your benefit.
While they may have caused sadness or anger or tears, they helped me grow and develop my own outlook and perception in a way that the ‘good’ events simply couldn’t have. This stoic mindset has proven to be incredibly empowering. Each and every obstacle that I encountered this past year was an opportunity for me to grow as an individual.
With this outlook, it is impossible to view any event as anything but an opportunity in disguise.
2016: Limiting Myself to the Essential
My main goal for this year is focusing on the essential, in all aspects of my life. I just finished re-reading another amazing book that has helped me with this. Twhe title says it all: The Power of Less, The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life.
The book can be boiled down to two fundamental principles:
- Identify the essential.
- Eliminate the rest.
So simple, so effective, yet very difficult. Especially for me. Maybe you can relate…
My entire life, at any given time, I’ve been doing many different things. Being an athlete, a student, an intern, a volunteer, a coach, a consultant, a business owner, a snowboarder, a dirty hippy, etc. I’ve learned a lot, but I’ve also become aware of how this approach and lifestyle can quickly lead to a lack of effectiveness and productivity.
I learned this especially while attempting to grow a business on the side while working a full-time job. My time and energy were both limited so I had to ensure that my ROI was maximized with minimal resources. As a result of this, I unconsciously eliminated some of the nonessential things from my life ie. watching TV (except for Summer Heights High of course).
But I still have a lot of work to do. The results that have come from limiting myself in just a few areas have been great.
You would be amazed at the benefits that can come from things as simple as having a clutter-free desk, reducing your email inbox and changing your morning routine.
The goal is incremental progress day in and day out.
6-Step Goal Planning Worksheet
Here’s to you and here’s to a kick ass 2016.
To help you make this year the best one yet, I’ve put together a 6-step goal planning worksheet for you. I’ve used these strategies this past year and they have worked wonders.
Here’s what you can look forward to in this worksheet:
- Six proven steps to increase your likelihood of goal achievement
- Six motivation hacks supported by various experiments and research
- How to identify your core values and align them with your goals