The Roman leader and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius famously said, The measure of a man is the worth of the things he cares about.
As I look back on my third year of intentionally tracking life’s ups and downs, I stop to reflect on how well I’m doing as a man. Am I falling short? How am I feeling? Where have a gone astray? Where have I remained steadfast?
This year presented quite the spectrum of high-highs and low-lows; a dichotomy of sorts as life’s seasons came and went. I did my best to adjust to those evolutions, but I’m curious for myself how these reflections feel once written out.
What went well this year?
Succinctly noting positive vibes as they relate to life, even if there’s some hesitation to be “preachy” about things. That’s ok! We all have things we’re happy about.
- The biggest news item of my year was most certainly marrying a beautiful side kick, Sarah, earlier this fall. We were surrounded by amazing family and our best friends! It’s something I know we’ll never forget. I still can’t believe the road over the last handful of years…
- Our web design and technology business went through significant changes, some of which were very positive. At year’s end, we’re thrilled to be “post-pivot” and refocusing on what’s most important to us, our work, and the new side project we’re tackling.
- I’m very thankful for another strong year of cycling and cycling experiences. I can’t say I tackled massive rides all the time, but I can say with certainty that I focused on remaining excited about the sport, for myself, and for no one else. And I gave Cyclocross racing a legitimate go this season!
- I’ve been personally thankful for a few friends that I’ve been able to stay connected to over the last year, some of which I’ve grown closer to through the gym I attend. Some of whom I’ve known for years, too. Denver has now been home for 10 years (a deeply internal reflection all its own).
- I started my tenure at Minds Matter Denver, a program where myself and a co-mentor are working with an underprivileged but accomplished high school sophomore, James. Over the next few years our goal is to help him achieve the most success possible, ultimately sending him to college with a full ride.
- While it’s not me-focused, I’m so proud of Sarah for starting and running her first trip through her company, Session Japan. She has quite a few incredible ideas lined up for the new year.
What did not go well this year?
The tough spots of the previous year, however difficult to pull into words. Things “not going well” is a relative phrase to each of us, so your own annual review may differ in tone.
- I mentioned the phrase “post-pivot” in my business notes above. Post- certainly means after, and for us it was what came after growing the business to the largest we’d seen yet. But—over the course of 6 months—we began to realize where we were headed, and what we as partners were becoming (speaking for myself, a stressed manager without time to feel truly accomplished in my own todos). We were losing the love for what we were doing, and decided to part ways with our full-time team; trimming back instead of forcing growth. On one hand, it felt like a huge failure and a disappointment for where we thought we wanted to take the company.
- This year’s been especially difficult to find my center each day. When I meditate, I’ve found myself going through the motions more than slipping into a healing state. It could be many factors (sleep, changes to living space, etc.), but I know this must change in the new year.
- We found out that my beloved pup, Rally-girl, doesn’t have much longer with us. Reflecting on the last decade of my life, and the plethora of changes that have come with it, I realized Rally has been my mostly unrecognized rock through it all. She’s had a great life, but it’s been very sad to realize she won’t be with us for another year. Letting her go will be hard.
- I’ve felt guilty about not being lit-up about life on a day to day basis. I feel “tired” in a way I haven’t felt in previous years. I believe so much has evolved since my divorce that this was the first year things seemed more settled. And yet, I’ve struggled find feel on fire. I know I can offer more to those around me, but something isn’t (yet) clicking in a holistic sense.
Results from last year
With a year behind me and record of what I hoped to achieve, here’s my recap from the last 12 months. How did these goals, and the greater theme of Growing Roots stand the test of time?
- I became a member of Minds Matter Denver, where we’re co-mentoring a student over the next few years. It hasn’t been a small commitment, but it feels good to give to something back outside of my own bubble.
- I kept my personal cycling promise and raced cyclocross this season, even if came in the form of 8am races and a 5:30am wakeup call on Saturday mornings. I didn’t find much success at that hour of the day, but I did find the fulfillment it brought. Racing bikes in Colorado is, how do I say, not the easiest of tasks!
- With Sarah and I now married, I’m looking forward to all of the highs and lows we’ll find together. (Ok, not as looking forward to the low moments!) Working through our stuff together, celebrating life as a unit, and still growing individually—it’s a massive task as others in a committed relationship are surely aware. The toughest part is sticking around when things get less fun, but I know we’re both in it for the right reasons, and that brings solace.
- Our company grew and shrunk, and left us with a heaping plate of lessons learned and a new outlook on what’s next. We’re building and launching a new dog bone and dog treat outfit, Safe Bones Company, in early 2017. It will soon be a top premium dog bone and done treat company. Everything will be Made in the U.S.A. and prepared by hand.
- I never started the book on marital affair, and it stings a bit. I’ve wanted to write on my ex-wife’s affair and the subsequent spiral, growth, and life after, but this year allowed no time to dig in. I see it as a cathartic tool for my own self, but also something others in pain can learn from. I know it needs to happen. Coincidentally, I’ve had a few conversations with authors in the last week, which brings new inspiration to just get moving on it.
Plans (with actions) for the new year
Given results from this year, the positive and the negative, these are my thoughts and plans for 2017 in no particular order. If you write your own review, try to be very descriptive and determined. Write with care, and purpose.
- I will continue to hone in on a narrow focus of the businesses we’re building, with very clear success metrics and goals. Our new business venture will find traction and grow into the end of 2017 with a strong footing.
- I’ll make the time to further two creative endeavors: writing a book on my experiences with marital affair, and creating structure around ongoing Japanese language lessons. Even if it means a Walden Pond getaway or two…
- I will maintain my relationship as the center point of my world, learning and growing with Sarah in our first year of marriage. Often coined the toughest year, I know it will present both great challenge and meaningful reward.
- My focus on a daily routine—specifically the morning routine—will tighten up. With an evolved household and new considerations abound, I’ll adjust the routine to work within the space.
- As a unique sidebar goal, I’ll dive into planning a cycling trip alongside Session Japan and other talented minds with the aim of creating a one-of-a-kind Japanese experience next fall.
I’m choosing to make 2017 the year of Recognition.
When I say that, I mean taking control of the focus points in life. How my time should be spent, where I find time to energize and grow, and what aspects of the “deck” should be cleared away to be as healthy as possible.
And in a new fold of life, this is no longer a singular goal, but one that involves another human being. I can say with certainty that I’m both scared and optimistic about the new year as we grow together, but also remain true to our own personal paths.
What does this matter?
I truly believe if we don’t check ourselves, we lose ourselves.
My dad always said that the only constant in life is change, and the older I get, I certainly see that becoming the norm. But amidst all of that change, I feel it’s our responsibility to ask ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing. Who are we doing it for? Is there a reason for doing what you do, day in and day out? How can you become happier and healthier with a few reflective changes?
We can control very few things in life—but at the core of what we can control is our ability to decide how we’re going to live each day. Simple steps, over time, can lead to drastic change.
As you look ahead to another new year, ask yourself: How do I want to show up?
You’ll never please everyone. You’ll never get exactly what you want. You will find hardships where you least expect it.
But the difference between you and everyone else will be that you’ve thought about things ahead of time. The soil will be prepared as the hot sun begins beating down upon you. From there, you will grow strong instead of wilting away under the heat.
Photo: The Arnold crew at a friend’s wedding, Summer 2016