2019 Review

2019 was an interesting year. I completed my MBA, watched the birth of my second child, and started writing a blog, after several years off. These high points were offset by difficulty deciding how to move forward in a new location.

We moved to California, but still had a house in Hawaii. Should I keep my marketing business based in Hawaii or relocate it to California? I was also considering moving into a new field. Should we stay in California, which is busy and expensive, or move to another state? We even considered the possibility of Japan. With so many options, it was difficult to choose a direction.

2019 was all about testing out those options. I made trips to other states to see how they compared to California. I met with people in different industries and discussed business options with the Small Business Development Office.

After some debate, I went back to Hawaii to get our house ready to sell.

Another big part of 2019 was reducing my online footprint. I deleted most of my social accounts, built a home server to host all of my information, and began detaching myself from Google. It’s not 100%, but getting closer.

Productivity with small kids is hard

I spent a lot of time working on improving productivity this year. I stopped playing video games and mostly stopped watching TV.

I also set clearer boundaries between work time and family time, experimenting with various methods to reduce distractions. Figuring out where to set work boundaries with two kids in the house was a learning experience.

Kids are a harder distraction because I really want to spend time with them. When my daughter calls, I want to go play with her. She has the ability to take my attention off my work. Creating better boundaries allowed me to spend more quality time in both venues (work and time with my kids).

I used this extra time to read over 30 books, a few of which I created detailed notes on. You can find them in the book reviews section. My two favorite books were “A guide to the Good Life” and “Atomic Habits”. My favorite fictional book of the year was “Ready Player One” (which is completely different than the movie).

2020 Resolutions: Simplify, Minimalize, and Pursue Passion

In a recent article, Derek Sivers wrote that time points like New Years or Midnight don’t really have any meaning to us. It is the changes in our lives like the birth of a child, relocating, or changing jobs that matter. I agree.

It just so happens that my realizations, goals, and life changes conveniently coincide with the new year. Actually, I have already started these “resolutions” and will be focusing on them more.

Simplify

A lot of things sound better on paper than they do in real life.

Owning a vacation home in Hawaii sounds like a dream for many people. You can rent it out when you aren’t there and vacation in it when you want to escape the cold weather.

As it turns out, owning a house in Hawaii when you don’t live there is a logistical nightmare and causes a lot of stress. Things break and things deteriorate. There is also the costs of insurance and property tax.

Though we built the house ourselves, we decided that it was ultimately causing more stress than we wanted. We will be selling the house in 2020.

In this same fashion, we have decided to close our business in Hawaii and start a new one in California. We are closing all of our banks and accounts in Hawaii.

Our lives are complex. We have to make complex decisions and manage our online lives.

My goal for 2020 is to reduce the decisions, especially unimportant decisions, I need to make in 2020. I’m reducing the number of programs and online accounts I have, simplifying my wardrobe so that everything can match, simplifying my meals, and reducing the number of ways that I communicate. Having deeper conversations with people rather than short text messages will be a big focus.

Future choices will be evaluated not just on their benefit, but on the added complexity and stress they add to my life.

The simpler things are, the easier it is to focus on what’s really important.

Minimalize

I am truly astounded by how quickly we can accumulate stuff. We moved to Hawaii with a couple of suitcases and accumulated a house (and garage) full of stuff within a short couple of years.

All that stuff didn’t make me any happier. In fact, it did just the opposite. Every time I looked at it I felt a weight of responsibility for it.

I thought back to the happiest times in my life and realized that I had very few physical possessions during that time. I had less stuff and was more focused on spending time with friends and actually doing things. It was experiences that made me happy, not things.

Our house in Hawaii was full of stuff. But after two days of garage sales, multiple donations, and several trips to the dump, I returned our house full of “stuff” back to two suitcases, one large and one small. I left Hawaii with the same amount of suitcases I entered with. It felt amazing.

More isn’t always more

Even too much of a good thing can go bad. Too much of a delicious meal makes you feel sick. Too many valuable possessions makes you appreciate each one less.

I started to realize that many of the things I collected no longer gave me joy. In fact, some lost their joy as soon as the purchase was over. Getting rid of them brought that joy back. It also created space and removed clutter.

I still have too much. Too much stuff I don’t need. Too much waste in my life. Too many decisions.

I am reducing my belongings, my responsibilities, and my pursuits to the ones I really care about.

I’ve already started

I was motivated after returning from Hawaii. I donated a bookshelf of marketing, leadership, and management books to the library and sold all of my collectibles. I started a process to convert all of our receipts and paper to digital, and started throwing away unneeded items with prejudice.

After throwing away my grammar school trophies and years of birthday and holiday cards, everything else was easier. It was harder when I moved to the kids room. My daughter didn’t want to get rid of anything even though her toys barely fit in her closet. It will also take more convincing to get my wife fully onboard.

But I feel a difference. The more I get rid of, the better I feel. As it turns out, flat spaces look better when they are empty and not covered in clutter.

While I used to try and maximize space, I am now trying to minimize it. I built a huge desk when I first started working from home. It was about 4 feet by 8 feet and filled up most of the office. The desk itself filled up with clutter. I would clean it each week, but it would inevitably become cluttered with bills and documents.

Now I am experimenting with minimizing. What is the smallest desk I need to get my work done? If there is no extra space, there is no flat space to fill up.

Experiments in minimalism

The point of minimalism is to only have what you need. This is different for everyone. I won’t know how far to go until I have gone too far. Experimenting is a perfect way to test the limits because there is no long-term risk.

Try something for a designated time and see if it makes your life better or worse. If better, keep doing it. If worse, go back to how it was or try something else.

Here are some experiments I plan to try for 2020.

  • Simplify my meals- eat only a couple of different meals each week.
  • Minimalize my wardrobe. Get rid of most color and most options.
  • Remove the TV from the House- will we miss it if its completely gone?
  • Give up my smart phone. Use a flip phone for a month.
  • Create a ridiculously small budget for a month.
  • Move into a much smaller space

It’s exciting because while I know that I am happier with minimal, I don’t know how minimal I can go. How little do I actually need?

Pursue Passion

The thing I learned most when pursuing my MBA was that I want to do something I really love. I know that I love helping people, business, marketing, and education. I have also realized that I love writing and will be doing it more in 2020.

I also love helping people with their businesses, their careers, and their lives. This will be a big direction for me moving forward.

Building a Network

I don’t have a network here in California. I was gone for over 15 years. I will be changing that for 2020. I am joining the local chambers of commerce and reaching out to the community to see where I can help.

Building these kinds of networks helps create opportunity. It is hard to pursue a passion if you don’t know an opportunity exist to put it to use. I look at this as a double benefit because I also get the chance to meet a lot of really great people.

Passion is contagious. Being around passionate people is inspiring.

Focusing

I’m excited about a lot of things. Too many in fact. If you try to focus on too many things, you end up not focusing on any of them. My goal for 2020, is to try and create laser focus on the passions that excite me the most. The cross point where I my passions, skills, and usefulness intersect.

Finding Passion

Having too many passions doesn’t seem to be the biggest issue for most people. A lack of passion plagues most people.

If you need inspiration, get around someone who is passionate. In 2020, I am hoping to offer some help by shooting a video series about passionate people. What is it that sets them apart? What keeps them going? What keeps them focused.

This series will follow two passions for me, sharing knowledge and being creative. It will also allow me to meet and share stories with people doing amazing things. I’m really excited about the project and have started putting together the first outline.

Clear, actionable goals

I am really excited about this year. I’ve set big, clear goals and put solid systems into place to achieve them. Most importantly, I am taking action. Not next week, not tomorrow, now. It will be an exciting year.