2016 Is The First Year I’m Committing to Guiding Principles Instead of Goals. This Is Why (Part 1)

On a boat during sunrise while en route to Salvacion surf break in the Philippines. December 2015.

Back to Basics

I started this blog back in September with Why I Got The Urge to Write. This intro piece described a whirlwind of personal events in 2015 that inspired me to start sharing in blog form.

As noted in that first essay, I had finally developed a point of view I felt comfortable sharing, and my new blog would serve as the launching point for writing about my life learnings, experiences, opinions and observations. As a reminder, the intent of these writings has a simple premise: to inspire greatness in those around me.

Staying true to that notion, I want to share my guiding principles for the new year. My hope is that their surrounding context, along with the individual principles themselves, will resonate with each of you along the spectrum of positive motivation.

A Year of Change

While taking a moment to reflect during my recent travels to Asia, it became quite obvious that 2015 was one of my most significant growing years; personal and professional progress was made in leaps and bounds. It was as if the lily pads of life got closer and closer to one another, with my daily journeys increasingly landing upon bigger and more impactful moments. On top of that, I discovered a yet untapped energy and confidence reserve that is fueling personal growth.

Here are a few highlights from the past year:

In prior years, just one of these accomplishments would have been reason for celebration. 2015 was CRAZY, and I really poured my heart and physical all into the year. I’m really thankful that I can walk away from it feeling such a strong sense of accomplishment and upward lift into 2016.

To this last point…

I Predict That 2016 Will Be A Major Inflection Point In My Life Journey

Call it a step in my life function, or an outward shift in my life utility curve, or whatever other economics 101 analogy, but I haven’t felt like this before and it’s got me quite jazzed up. I have a strong desire to go even bigger than 2015, and sense some big things coming my way. I also predict it might come with some upheaval. Of course, nothing will come to me while resting on my laurels; I have to seek out new accomplishment with unadulterated tenacity and ambition. Fortunately, my current physical and mental state is telling me I’m totally game.

As part of my preparation for the new year, I’ve been reflecting on what I deem to be my motivational “life lenses” (a bad Instagram analogy, I know), i.e. my 2016 guiding principles. Specific goals will eventually be documented to hold me accountable, but a refined mental state is my current priority. A focus on tactics only captures the interaction at hand, while an improved mental outlook has the power to substantially impact every single decision and interaction with refreshment and vigor. This is key to realizing my next big steps in as grandiose a way as possible, and so it is here where I will prioritize from the outset.

First snowboard day of the season. Not yet back one week from the Philippines and still finding a need to venture out. Snow Valley, January 2016.

The Path to Enlightenment

My final set of prioritized principles crystallized over the holiday break while on a surf getaway in the Philippines. It was my first solo international trip, and I was anxious to travel alone for fear of loneliness, navigational challenges and safety risks. Shortly after embarking, I quickly learned that solo international travel is the ultimate adventure, comprised of the most self-defining, rewarding and magical life moments. It’s an extremely selfish yet positive exercise. I only did what I wanted to do, and all on my own timeline and budget (whether big or small). Serendipity and wanderlust was my guide. I easily established new relationships, exposed myself to new cultures and perspectives, and most importantly, re-confirmed how I seek unselfish happiness.

Life’s greatest grant is unfettered will to seek out what makes you happy (even the United States Declaration of Independence agrees). It’s one of life’s unalienable rights. But let’s all agree on not taking from others in the process. Our world is not a zero sum game, and one should find happiness while also giving back and building up his or her surrounding community. As wondrously documented in American Beauty (one of my all time top 10), there’s so much beauty in the world, and hence no need to grab it all to one’s self.

The End Game

“Let’s All Rise together”

This was our mantra at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, where our MBA class, despite being comprised of extreme alpha personalities, emphasized collective advancement vs individual gain. We shared class notes, beers and high-powered connections. We even helped our peers get the jobs we wanted. It was the ultimate support system, and made our class an absolute stand-out against those of other programs (where I had heard many an anecdote to the contrary).

Participating in this system was an easy choice because (1) individual gains accelerated as peers rose to prominence and (2) we had much more fun along the path of accomplishment. One of my greatest Kellogg memories is sharing a pitcher at The Keg (once a top rated college bar, now defunct) with many a grad school peer and hearing about yet another job offer they had just received. There was no jealousy, ill will or personal anxiety arising from implications for my own job search. Just sincere excitement, praise and congratulatory cheers-ing of those classically small plastic cups.

(As an aside, a particular shout-out to Bari, a group of guys brought together by pre-orientation travels to the southern foothills of the Andes Mountains in Bariloche, Argentina. Our uncompromising friendship and camaraderie will far transcend our fantastical time together in Evanston, and is one of my most cherished takeaways from the Kellogg experience.)

So let my guiding principles steer toward this mantra, and let this mantra serve as their connecting tissue in the larger organism of being great.

My 2016 Guiding Principles

Below is my enlightenment, and I will expand upon these principles in subsequent blog posts. For now, I will leave them in standalone form for you to interpret and reflect upon during my writing downtime (it’s going to be a busy next few weeks in the office — strategy offsite and Sundance, here we come!).

Looking forward to discussing these further. Until then, enjoy ;)

  • Go uncomfortably big
  • Be extraordinarily kind
  • Family-focused
  • Guilt-free
  • Seek adventure
  • Stay the fiscal course
  • Empower your community
  • Extreme confidence with humility
My Kellogg peers at a wedding in Victor, Idaho. They are a truly exceptional bunch. August 2014.