For the past few years, high-profile bloggers led by Chris Brogan have urged readers entering the New Year to identify three words that will act as rails to keep them headed in the right direction for the coming year instead of creating a list of resolutions that are either vague or directed toward a single goal.
Recognizing that I’m six weeks late to the party – which will make my first word somewhat ironic – I set down to identifying my words. Part of the reason for the delay is that I had a somewhat different set of words on Dec. 30, when I sat down to write this. My entire professional life is about Story or Narrative – creating a simple way to help people to relate to your message. Facts are nice, but you have to make them resonate with your audience. After a lot of thought, I decided that Story/Narrative was something I needed to think about every day to be more effective, and my three words needed to point me toward that end goal.
I suppose that last paragraph is another way to say I have four words, but I’ll stick with what I wrote. So here are my three words for 2012:
Publish. A phrase coined by Seth Godin, publishing is all about execution. Items on my To-Do List stayed there too long in 2011, and I often felt in retrospect upon completion of projects that I could have “done better” or missed something big I shouldn’t have missed. In fact, my To Do list was probably too long and acted as a distraction, so I added a “Big Rocks” section to help me prioritize my time. A lot of this word is about Simplifying and Focusing. I was pretty successful in January and early February blocking out time on my schedule to concentrate on my Big Rocks and have been somewhat successful eliminating less important things so that I can focus on projects that matter, posting more frequently, clearing out my In-Box more often, and reducing the number of meetings I attend where I can’t provide value in favor of asking the organizer to let me know if he or she needs my help on something after the fact.
Catalyst. I recently helped beta Sally Hogshead’s new professional assessment based on research tied to her terrific book, Fascinate. I scored as a Catalyst (Where Passion Meets Rebellion), a personality type defined as “enthusiasm and creativity brings people and ideas together for the purpose of innovation.” My initial thought upon reading the report was that it was a perfect description; my second thought was that I got away from this strength in 2011 and need to figure out how to get back to it in 2012. For more on Sally’s research, go here. Another way to think about Catalyst is to focus on the attributes of a Linchpin as described by the aforementioned Mr. Godin — Linchpins “invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen, and create order out of chaos. They figure out what to do when there’s no rule book.” I focused on this a lot in 2010; not so much in 2011. In the swirl that’s many of our days, we avoid being a linchpin in favor of the safety of being a team member or individual contributor. I’m trying to be more of a linchpin this year (e.g., I’m introducing LinkedIn connections to each other).
Purpose. This was going to be a different word until New Year’s Day, when the family went to see the movie “Hugo,” which among other things contemplates the notion of purpose in one’s life. Over the past few years, I’ve spent far less time in church – OK, just about none – and far less time focusing on things that might make a difference in other people’s lives. This is a problem if you’re 52 as I am. What will people say about me when I’m gone? Did I leave the world a better place? Did I make a difference in someone’s life who will go on to make a difference in many others (I’m hoping I’ve done that with my kids, but I’m thinking more broadly here). Tony Schwartz wrote on this subject on the Harvard Business Review blog recently and he asks the question even more simply, “Why am I here?” I’ve taken baby steps on this word recently – signing up to review United Way allocation requests next month and trying to drive some changes in some of our communications strategies at work – but this one will clearly be my most difficult challenge this year.
So what about you? What are your three words? Son Tyler’s are Positive Mental Attitude, and I’ve seen a difference in the past six weeks as a result of his following that mantra. Even if you don’t capture your three words in a blog post or comment, think the concept through. Write them on a file card and carry them around with you and take a look at them periodically, particularly if your New Year’s Resolutions have already fallen by the wayside.