Never Has It Been More Important to Plan for Next Year
Yet, do I ever see myself giving a giant motivational speech? No, not really, if I’m being honest with myself. I see myself more as the behind-the-scenes, chief of staff personality, able to juggle a million balls in the air and coach a team at the same time.
In other words, I know what I’m good at and what I’m not the best at. I know doing what I’m good at will propel me to greater success. And while I won’t be giving giant motivational speeches to go fight aliens, I know I can lead large meetings, and that’s good enough to keep me competitive.
So let’s talk about our strength. Let’s feel good about what we’re good at, in preps for the New Years.
New Year, New Strengths
Andy Puddecombe’s (Headspace co-founder, buddhist monk) meditation advice about being kind instructs us to treat ourselves the way we treat our closest friend. We don’t scold our friends nor use harsh language, right? Of course not, we use reassuring words because we care.
Similarly, Marcus Buckingham (researcher, NYT best-selling author) has advice on why we need to focus on building our strengths and find workarounds for our weaknesses. His first reason is simple — it feels better! Spending our time doing what we’re good at simply feels better than always focusing on why we suck and dredging through self-help books only to barely improve. But also, he suggests imagining being in a relationship where the other person is constantly pointing out your faults. That sucks, right? So why would we do that to ourselves?!
Here are my practical tips on how to focus on our strength:
- Find Your Strength — You might think you know what your strengths are, but you need to take a more analytical approach and verify them. Here’s a list of strengths to get you thinking. The cheap method is to ask friends for their honest opinion, or go hard-core and take the Gallup’s Top 5 Strengths (which comes free if you buy their book). Here are my results.
“A strength is more than a skill — a technical proficiency, like working with numbers or using a certain kind of tool. Your strengths are broader aptitudes you have or build for solving problems, getting things done, influencing people or developing relationships.” — @AdamMGrant 
- When to Lean In, When to Let It Go — Perhaps the most important advice I can give on this topic — the ability to determine if you should pursue the opportunity or let it pass. For example, your boss asks for volunteers to take on a challenging task which could result in great accolades. Before you take it, ask yourself if you have the right strengths for the job. If the task involves detailed data crunching and you’re a big picture person, that’s no good, or vice-versa. Know when to pounce and when to stay in the bushes.
- Good Enough — The key here is to not disqualify yourself. For example, most of us do not like public speaking. That means presenting in front of large crowds and being in the spotlight with all eyes on you. And yet, what uber-successful job doesn’t require some element of that? Therefore, get used to the fact that you will be doing public speaking, and the more practice you have at it, the more proficient you will become. This is where you take some training or read those self-help books, but only enough to not disqualify yourself! The goal here is to get by, not to master.
“I completely agree with you, Adam, that our greatest weaknesses are sometimes the other side of our strengths.” — Melinda Gates 
Get the Superhero Mindset
The New Year is coming in less than 2 weeks, are you ready?! No, I don’t care about your holiday preparations, but I do care about reflecting on this past year and getting ready for next year!
A phrase that has stuck with me ever since this pandemic is, “don’t put your life on pause.” With each day feeling like groundhog day, it’s easy to slide into complacency and put all our hopes into 2021. Just yesterday I had to leave the house and was so lazy, I kept my sweatpants on!
The fact is, if we don’t do proper preparations for 2021, we’ll slide right into it and keep life on pause.
Routines are great… until they aren’t.
For example, you drive the same route to get to work. Then you hear on the radio or on your app that there’s a traffic jam up ahead. How many of us alter our habitual route and take on a different path?
I’ve discussed the myths surrounding will power and how to truly form healthy habits, which you can read here. But what if those habits ultimately are not productive, positive, or do not yield the intended benefits? Well, my friend, that’s when we need to have in our toolbelt, what I call the Superhero Mindset.
Like the Justice League, here’s what it consists of:
- Superman — Just as Superman flies high above Earth and uses his super vision to keep an eye on Metropolis, we need to fly high to get a big picture view of our lifestyles. Take a step back and ask big questions like, “Am I on track to achieve my dreams, and are my routines helping or hurting?”, or as @ramit said, “Stop asking $3 questions and start asking $30,000 questions.”
- Batman — Assess your current routine and create a Plan B, C, D and so on. Just like Batman, who has thought of every possible scenario, you should look at your goals, and play a mental game of exploring alternative routines.
- Wonder Woman — Hold yourself accountable! Honestly ask yourself if you think you are on track to becoming healthier, more fit, or are closer to completing your project. Or are you just keeping your head above water and your waistline stable? As if Wonder Woman’s lasso had compelled you, be honest with yourself, own the truth that comes out of the exercise, and then take responsibility for making changes where necessary.
As we glide into the New Year, don’t immediately slide into your customary habits. Try the Superhero Mindset and see if you can rescue your routine!
How to Have Merry Metrics!
Everybody knows a goal isn’t really a goal if you can’t measure it, right?
Anybody can say they want to save more money, get more fit, or even startup a new business. But, in order to know I’ve made progress, I need to set metrics. For example:
- Each month increase my savings by $4k.
- Shave off 15 seconds from my average pace to run a mile.
- By Dec 15, have the next 4 Venture Out articles written, so I can focus on new product development.
But let’s be honest here — setting metrics is boring as heck. I’m looking for any kind of distraction to avoid writing down specific metrics! And that’s because I know it’s tedious to do, and once it’s written down, I become responsible for them. (Yuk, tedious and responsible.)
First off, pat yourself on the back for even reading this. The act of measuring something automatically makes it better. Just the awareness that [insert your metric] exists means some part of you will pay attention to it. Much like the Eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings, once it sets its gaze on something, that’s where the action occurs!
Here are a few ideas to have fun with as you measure your goals for next year:
One Goal to Rule Them All — Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many numbers and metrics. Instead, just focus on the most important thing in your life that you want to achieve next year. For example:
- If you want to travel more, set a metric of 1 trip every 3 months.
- If you want to save money, set a metric of $X dollars each month.
- If you want to start a business, set a metric of at least X hours per week that you want to devote to it.
Mashup Metric — Experts say the best way to form a good habit is to pair it up with a routine you already do. For example, if you want to drink more water, make it part of your routine to grab water while brushing your teeth. So try mashing together something you already do with a goal.
- “Before I take a shower, I’ll meditate for 5 minutes.”
- “Before I allow myself to scroll social media, I’ll read a full length article and learn something.”
Buddy Up — Ask a friend if they want to trade setting goals for each other. In other words, outsource this task and ask a friend to set a metric for you. And if they’re game for it, maybe you can set one for them. Just be kind to each other!
How to Conduct a Personal Annual Review
With that, I want to say thank you so much. Venture Out is a labor of love. I spend long hours in my backyard patio researching and writing these entries in the hopes that you find them useful and enjoyable. I know my humor is an acquired taste, but hopefully my tips are game-changers for you.
As we wrap up this year (and perhaps unwrapping great presents!), I do encourage you to take some time between now and January 1 to assess how this past year went personally for you, and what it may mean for next year. One thing that won’t change is that Venture Out will be here for you on your journey.
Below, we examine two methods of reviewing and reflecting on the past year.
James Clear, author of the New York Times bestseller, Atomic Habits, does his Annual Review by answering these 3 questions:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well this year?
- What did I learn?
Read all of his past reviews on himself to get an idea of how he keeps it free flowing and personal. I definitely enjoy reading them as it gives me ideas on how to measure myself and a glimpse into his life.
Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur, investor, author, and podcaster, is famous for his process, which I summarize below: 
- Create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE
- Open your calendar and look at each week.
- Try to remember whenever you engaged with people or did something, and write it in the respective column.
- Johnny’s additional step — Because I have a bad memory, just think back on the whole year and see if any other people or significant events come to mind, and write in the respective column.
- Once you’re done, identify the top NEGATIVES and write them down somewhere to remind you to STOP doing them. For the POSITIVES, take action now and schedule more of them.
I always enjoy Ferriss’ method because it’s kind of cutthroat! Sometimes to get further in life and closer to our goals, it means cutting out the negative parts. I’m sorry 90 Day Fiancée, I’m going to have to let you go now. ;(
- How To Measure Innovation (To Get Real Results) by Soren Kaplan
- The steps to shake yourself out of ‘small-picture’ thinking by Dina Smith
- How to train your brain to be more adventurous by Arthur B Markman
- James Clear — Annual Reviews
- Chris Guillebeau — HOW TO CONDUCT YOUR OWN ANNUAL REVIEW
- Forget New Year’s Resolutions and Conduct a ‘Past Year Review’ Instead by Tim Ferriss
- 1 Way Gymnastics Superstar Simone Biles Thinks Differently: The Psychology of Success by Jeff Haden
- WorkLife with Adam Grant: When strength becomes weakness
- Day in the Life: Simone Biles
- Invest in Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham
- The 34 CliftonStrengths Themes Explain Your Talent DNA
- Why Establishing Adaptive Habits Is Difficult by Jonas Dora MSc
- Why an Adaptive Mindset Matters for Entrepreneurs by Aytekin Tank