I recently read Noah Kagan’s article, how was your 2016?, where he reflects on his experiences over the past year, compares them to the original “bucket list” of goals he made at the beginning of the year, and shares his goals for 2017. I haven’t been much of a “goal-setter” recently, but I have successfully made life-changing New Year’s resolutions the past few years, and after reading this article, listening to a few episodes of The Tim Ferriss Show, and reading Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent autobiography, I figured setting 2017 goals to revisit throughout the year would be an experiment worth trying.
Below is my 2017 bucket list, in Noah’s format, followed by a brief explanation:
To make this list I seriously reflected on: what were the most meaningful actions I took in 2016, what will I be glad I spent my time on a year (or five years) from now, what lessons do I want to learn in 2017, and what is truly important to me.
In 2017 my two main themes (what I usually use instead of goals) are: invest my time by practicing hard and important skills (play the real game and the long game), and be bad at more stuff. The majority of my ambitions are wrapped up into Graduate Unschool, most of what I want to do/learn/become is included in there, and after almost two years it is still a huge priority to me. At the end of 2016 I got in the habit of regularly dedicating time to deeply focusing on Graduate Unschool, which I’ve loved, and I believe it’s the best thing I can do to set myself up for future success, even while I still have no idea what exactly that would look like. 1000 hours is a huge amount of time, but it’s easily measurable and achievable if I make working on it a part of my life, which is the point of this goal. It should challenge me to scale up my best habits. I know that if I want to develop skills the only shortcut to putting in a massive amount of hours of deliberate practice, is putting those hours in while you’re young (which I still am), and using habit formation to minimize willpower depletion. Right now is the perfect time to internalize that lesson.
Why would someone want to spend more time being bad at things? My reason is when you’re starting something new, growing, experimenting, or learning you’re going to spend most of your time failing and being really bad at whatever you’re attempting. If I can become more comfortable shamelessly trying my best, observing objective feedback on my performance, and repeating, I’ll improve much more quickly than if I only practiced skills I’ve already mastered. The hard part about this is that I’m not shameless (yet) and my ego still convinces me that it’s embarrassing to be bad at something. Not anymore, this is the year I’m going to break this pattern. What’s actually embarrassing is being so concerned with how I’m perceived that I’m limiting my own growth. Instead I’ll be reframing poor performance and failure as an essential and important part of the learning process (and practice). In the past I’ve ended up writing less, releasing fewer podcasts, and trying fewer experiments because I’m afraid that they might turn out bad. Guess what? They probably will be bad, but they aren’t the finished product of me as a writer, a podcaster, or a student of whatever else I’m trying to learn. Part of the process of becoming a great writer is writing hundreds of bad articles (like this one) and putting them out in public so I can receive feedback and learn from them. Today I can easily prove complicated real analysis (advanced math) theorems, but years ago I had to learn how to graph functions, and solve for x just like everyone else. Those skills became easier because I solved thousands of math problems (and spent more time failing to solve problems that were outside my skill level), not because I suddenly became smarter. I never viewed elementary math as a demeaning task, so why should I feel foolish flailing my body around to learn a new skateboard trick, or making awful YouTube videos if they’re a part of the skill-building journey? The answer is simple: I shouldn’t.
2017 will be my year of practice. What will you make it into? What’s important to you this year? These are questions worth asking.
Source of inspiration for this article: http://okdork.com/2016/12/29/how-was-your-2016/