Categories
General

My 2018 Retrospective (And 2019 Action Plan)

A one-hour exercise to help you celebrate your biggest wins, identify your biggest opportunities, and dominate the new year.

Categories
General

My 2017 Retrospective (And 2018 Action Plan)

A one-hour exercise to help you celebrate your biggest wins, identify your biggest opportunities, and dominate the new year.

Glacier National Park. Photo taken from a very small plane.
Glacier National Park. Photo taken from a very small plane in early May.

I spend most of my time planning for the future. With the help of my meditation practice, I’m getting better at living more in the present. But something I still find incredibly difficult is reflecting on the past.

I rarely celebrate achievements for more than a few minutes, and I almost never “look back” on projects or situations to identify what I learned. (And I certainly don’t use that information to guide my future decisions.)

This, as you can imagine, is a problem.

“Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Sometimes being “doomed to repeat” stuff can be a good thing. I think I did a lot of things right this year, and I’d like to continue to do them.

But I also did a lot of stuff wrong.

If we don’t learn from our past, we we won’t be able to identify our biggest opportunities to make life better. Which means we’ll likely suffer through the same situations and thought-patterns again and again.

So this year, I’m continuing with a tradition I started two years ago: a personal retrospective.

(Previous retrospectives: 2015 and 2016.)

What’s a retrospective?

A retrospective is when you look back on past events to identify what worked…and what didn’t work. A retrospective helps you celebrate your wins and identify your weaknesses. It helps you learn from the past and correct for the future.

How to do your own personal retrospective

To do a personal retrospective, you simply pick a particular project or time period and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s working? (“What did I do right? What am I proud of?”)
  • What’s not working? (“What could be improved? What are my biggest opportunities for growth?”)
  • How can I fix what’s not working for a better result? (“What specific things can I focus on next time?”)

Then you spend 15-30 minutes writing about each.

Nate’s 2017 Personal Retrospective

To give you an idea of how it’s done—and to encourage you to do the same—I want to share mine with you.

Eating BBQ in Austin; hiking in Montana; our new dog, Rally; in Glacier with my grandpa.
Eating BBQ in Austin; hiking in Montana; our new dog, Rally; in Glacier with my grandpa.

QUESTION 1: WHAT’S WORKING? (“WHAT DID I DO RIGHT? WHAT AM I PROUD OF?”)

If I had to give 2017 a title, I’d call it “The Year of Remembering What’s Really Important.” 

I MADE FRIENDS WITH DEATH

Ever since my friend Kyle died a few years ago in a freak car accident, I’ve become more aware of the fact that I am going to die. This year, I leaned into that scary, awe-inducing feeling and decided to make friends with death.

That way whenever I start to take myself too seriously or get worked up about something stupid, I can put things into perspective and remember that things are, on balance, absolutely amazing.

It’s on the underside of my wrist, usually hidden under my watch strap.

Nate Green

It reminds me that every time I do something it may be the last time I ever get to do it. So I might as well enjoy it.

I SPENT TIME WITH PEOPLE I LOVE

  • I visited my family in Texas and walked around my boyhood home.
  • I spent a week on the edge of the Puget Sound with Richelle.
  • I ate my way through New Orleans with Jason.
  • I fell in love with our new dog, Rally.

IMG_3971
Rally with her cocodrilo.

  • I showed Mike my favorite bars and restaurants in Portland.
  • I got my ass kicked in basketball by my little brother Austin.
  • I spent hours training and hitting the sauna with my other brother, Jordan.
  • I shared beers and hikes through Glacier with my dad and grandpa.
  • I cooked meals and made cocktails with my mom.

I STARTED DOING MORE CONDITIONING TRAINING 

My mom’s dad died of a heart attack. My grandpa on my dad’s side has had at least two heart attacks. My mom was born with a heart condition and had to have surgery as a baby.

So why the hell have I neglected conditioning (cardio) all my adult life? Beats me. Lifting weights is more fun, I guess.

But this year, with the help of Joel Jamieson  and an inexpensive heart rate monitor, I’ve started doing 1-3 weekly conditioning sessions including Concept 2 rower and skierg sprints, trail running, Assault Bike cardiac output, and more.

Turns out I actually enjoy doing conditioning if I have some specific numbers (heart rate zones, etc) to shoot for.

Nate Green
Me and my friend Josh Nordwick on the Assault Bikes.

I MADE TIME TO WORK ON MY OWN PROJECTS

Along with my consulting work I still found time to write 51 newsletters, coach a handful of entrepreneurs, and do a limited release of my new program, The 2-Day Workout Fix.

That feels good.

Screen Shot 2018-01-01 at 2.06.17 PM

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QUESTION #2: WHAT’S NOT  WORKING? (“WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED? WHAT ARE MY BIGGEST OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH?”)

SPEND MORE TIME MEDITATING 

I started meditating consistently a few years ago and even went so far as to go on a 10-day silent retreat in 2015. The science is in: Meditation can change your brain for the better. (Read more here.)

But I didn’t need double-blind studies to tell me that. I know from personal experience that the more I practice meditation and mindfulness, the happier I am.

Mindfulness may be the ultimate meta skill. Which is why after a year of only practicing 10 minutes per day, I’m going to up the ante in 2018 to 30 minutes per day of sitting meditation (with a daily walking meditation, too).

This skill is so important to me that aside from some monthly discipline challenges (which I’ll write about soon), meditating more is going to be my ONLY focus for 2018.

Sure, I’ll continue to write and work and do all the other stuff that makes up a life. But my daily meditation is the only thing I’ll track.

It may be too early to say, but I fully expect the benefits of increased meditative practice to bleed into the rest of my life.

(If talk of meditation makes you roll your eyes, I encourage you to check out this book. And this one.)

QUESTION #3: HOW CAN I FIX WHAT’S NOT WORKING FOR A BETTER RESULT? (“WHAT SPECIFIC THINGS CAN I FOCUS ON NEXT TIME?”)

Action step #1: Extend my morning meditation practice from 10-20 minutes to a full 30 minutes. 

Rationale: I’m already meditating in the morning, so I might as well use that to my advantage and simply extend the practice. On the mornings where I can’t fit that in, I’ll break up the practice into two 15-minute sessions.

Action step #2: Leave my phone at home when walking the dog. 

Rationale: When I went on the silent retreat a couple years ago, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed walking meditation. But I rarely do it.

Then it hit me: I take my dog for a long walk (or two) every day. What if instead of bringing my phone and listening to a podcast or audio book, I tried doing a walking meditation instead?

So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll keep track of my practice in a notebook and try not to break the chain of “X’s”.

IMG_3993

Write your own Personal Retrospective

So that’s mine. Now it’s your turn.

It’ll take you roughly an hour, but it could be the most important thing you do this year. After all, 2018 is already here.

What are you the most proud of? Where are your biggest growth opportunities?

And the biggest question: What are you going to do about them?

-Nate

Categories
Essay General Life Skills Tactical

My 2016 Personal Retrospective (And 2017 Action Plan)

A one-hour exercise to help you celebrate your biggest wins, identify your biggest opportunities, and dominate the new year.

Nathan Anderson
Sometimes it’s nice to think about how small you are, and how everything you’re worried about right now probably doesn’t matter.

I spend most of my time planning for the future. With the help of my meditation practice, I’m getting better at living more in the present. But something I still find incredibly difficult is reflecting on the past.

I rarely celebrate achievements for more than a few minutes, and I almost never “look back” on projects or situations to identify what I learned. (And I certainly don’t use that information to guide my future decisions.)

This, as you can imagine, is a problem.

“Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Sometimes being “doomed to repeat” stuff can be a good thing. I think I did a lot of things right this year, and I’d like to continue to do them.

But I also did a lot of stuff wrong.

If we don’t learn from our past, we we won’t be able to identify our biggest opportunities to make life better. Which means we’ll likely suffer through the same situations and thought-patterns again and again.

So this year, I’m continuing with a new tradition I started last year: a personal retrospective.

(Read my 2015 retrospective here.)

What’s a retrospective?

A retrospective is when you look back on past events to identify what worked…and what didn’t work. A retrospective helps you celebrate your wins and identify your weaknesses. It helps you learn from the past and correct for the future.

How to do your own personal retrospective

To do a personal retrospective, you simply pick a particular project or time period and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s working? (“What did I do right? What am I proud of?”)
  • What’s not working? (“What could be improved? What are my biggest opportunities for growth?”)
  • How can I fix what’s not working for a better result? (“What specific things can I focus on next time?”)

Then you spend 15-30 minutes writing about each.

Nate’s 2016 Personal Retrospective

To give you an idea of how it’s done—and to encourage you to do the same—I want to share mine with you.

NGE 2
Talking with a Buddhist monk in Thailand; taking a selfie with friends; hanging out in a Slovenian gym; taking in a gorgeous mountain view.

QUESTION 1: WHAT’S WORKING? (“WHAT DID I DO RIGHT? WHAT AM I PROUD OF?”)

If I had to give 2016 a title, I’d call it “The year of gaining perspective.”

Big Win #1: I lived out of a suitcase for seven months and traveled to Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam, England, Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy. (And Canada, but who counts that?)

Traveling like this taught me a few important things:

  • I have all that I need to be happy. It may sound trite, but it’s true. I have hot water, a comfortable place to sleep, enough food to eat, full functionality of all my limbs, a good group of friends, a family I love, and I don’t live below the poverty line. (Fun fact: If you’re single, live in the US, and make $50,000 gross per year, you’re in richest 1.3% of the world’s population.) Traveling is the ultimate perspective-giver.
  • Everyone is seeking connection and potential friends are everywhere. Wherever Richelle and I went, we had people to hang out with and new things to try. We made friends with a young group of entrepreneurs in Playa Del Carmen; we ate strange noodle desserts with the owner of a a coffee shop in Chiang Mai; I nearly got myself killed while riding on the back of a scooter in Vietnam (on my way to a karaoke bar no less); and we had one of the best meals of our lives at Hisa Franko in Slovenia, thanks to Luka and Matej.
  • If you’re creative, you can get (or stay) in shape anywhere. I lifted water jugs in Mèrida, did handstands on a rooftop in Bangkok, hiked in the Julian Alps, played frisbee in Danang, and hit up an old school gym in Croatia. (The guy behind the counter was named Goran, which means “mountain man” in Kurdish. He looked the part.)
  • Long-term travel isn’t for me. After seven months on the road, we were ready to come back to the States. We missed our families, our community, and our basic routines. We’ll continue to travel, of course, but we’ll likely do it for a few weeks at a time (at most) and turn it into a full-fledged vacation instead of a “workcation”.

Big Win #2: I maintained my key habits and adopted a couple new ones.

  • Old habits I stuck to 90+% of the time: Meditating in the morning for 20 minutes; doing a daily gratitude practice with Richelle; exercising a minimum of two times per week; doing undistracted creative work for at least four hours per day; taking weekends completely off.
  • New habits I adopted: Giving 5-10% of my income to charity; cutting my meat consumption in half.

Big Win #3: I did work I was proud of.

  • From January to November I sent an average of three newsletters per month. (I took the month of December 2016 off completely.)
  • I advised a handful of companies that are doing great work in the world.

What We've Learned

Click here (or the image above) to download the book for free.

QUESTION #2: WHAT’S NOT  WORKING? (“WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED? WHAT ARE MY BIGGEST OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH?”)

Big Growth Opportunity #1: Continue to work on flexibility and mobility (for real this time).

Big Growth Opportunity #2: Spend at least 50% of my creative time on my own projects.

If you read my 2015 retrospective, you’ll notice that Number 1 is a carryover from last year.

Here’s what I said then:

I’ve paid lip-service to flexibility for the past couple of years, half-heartedly following a daily stretching routine. But honestly, I still tend to skip a good part of my warm-up and “forget” to stretch at least half the time.

Because of that, I often wake up tight and sore and often require a hot shower to “loosen up.”

Well, a full year has passed and I’m disappointed to report that not much has changed. Old habits die hard, apparently.

One potential reason for the fuck-up: I gave myself way too many (four) action steps last year. Here’s what I said I’d do at the beginning of last year:

Action step #1: Do my morning mobility and activation warm-up at least 80% of the time. That means I can only miss one day out of the week.

Action step #2: Follow a simple 5-minute mobility, stretching circuit before bed every night.

Action step #3: Set a timer for 60 minutes and do one stretch for one minute for every hour that I work at my computer.

Action step #4: Sit on the ground for at least 10 minutes and play with positions till they become more comfortable.

That’s WAY too much.

After watching thousands of people go through the habit-based coaching programs at Precision Nutrition, I know that most of us can only stick to one new habit at a time. (Sometimes you can get away with two, but it helps to have those habits in different domains—like one for personal and one for professional.)

So this year, even though I have a lot more to work on (trust me) I’m going to narrow my focus to these two things, plus reduce my action steps.

Both of these opportunities—increasing mobility and working on my own projects 50% of the time—will have a significant positive impact in my life. Probably more than any other habit I could adopt.

In other words, if everything else about my life stayed the same and only these two things changed, I’d consider 2017 a huge success.

QUESTION #3: HOW CAN I FIX WHAT’S NOT WORKING FOR A BETTER RESULT? (“WHAT SPECIFIC THINGS CAN I FOCUS ON NEXT TIME?”)

Action step #1: Set a timer for 20 minutes of stretching, breathing, and movement directly after I finish my morning meditation.

Rationale: I’m already meditating in the morning, so I might as well use that to my advantage. By linking this new practice (stretching) to my old practice (meditating), I’m more likely to stick to it. And the fact that I’m already wearing sweat pants and sitting on the floor helps.

Also, for someone who loves routines, I hate following rigid programs. That’s why I’m purposefully keeping the stretching and movement portion of this action step vague. My only goal is to set a timer for 20 minutes and do some kind of movement for the entire duration. If I can do that, I’ll consider it a win.

Nate Green Morning Workout Routine
I figure I can crawl, stretch, and do some other bodyweight exercises for 20 minutes and feel pretty good about it.

Action step #2: Immediately fire 1-2 companies I’m currently working with in order to free up 50% of my work schedule. 

Rationale: The way my schedule is structured right now, I’m spending 90% of my time on other people’s projects. This has been fun and lucrative, but it’s not allowing me time to work on stuff that matters to me: writing blog posts and books, creating new projects, and working with personal coaching clients.

I’ll likely take a significant financial hit in the short-term, but that’s no big deal. Best case scenario: I use that free time to create things that help people and earn money directly. Worst-case scenario: I try it for a year and pick up another corporate client or two in 2018 if needed.

Write your own Personal Retrospective

So that’s mine. Now it’s your turn.

It’ll take you roughly an hour, but it could be the most important thing you do this year. After all, 2017 is already here.

What are you the most proud of? Where are your biggest growth opportunities?

And the biggest question: What are you going to do about them?

-Nate

Categories
Life Skills Tactical

Nate Green’s 2015 Retrospective (And 2016 Action Plan)

A one-hour exercise to help you celebrate your biggest wins, identify your biggest opportunities, and prepare to dominate the upcoming year.

Greg Rakozy

I spend most of my time planning for the future. With the help of my meditation practice, I’m getting better at living more in the present. But something I still find incredibly difficult is reflecting on the past.

I rarely celebrate achievements for more than a few minutes, and I almost never “look back” on projects or situations to identify what I learned. (And I certainly don’t use that information to guide my future decisions.)

This, as you can imagine, is a problem.

“Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Sometimes being “doomed to repeat” stuff can be a good thing. I think I did a lot of things right this year, and I’d like to continue to do them.

But I also did a lot of stuff wrong.

If we don’t learn from our past, we we won’t be able to identify our biggest opportunities to make life better. Which means we’ll likely suffer through the same situations and thought-patterns again and again.

So this year, I’m beginning a new tradition I hope to repeat every year: A Personal Retrospective.

What’s a retrospective?

A retrospective is when you look back on past events to identify what worked…and what didn’t work. A retrospective helps you celebrate your wins and identify your weaknesses. It helps you learn from the past and correct for the future.

I was first introduced to this framework by Phil Caravaggio, the CEO of Precision Nutrition. Because of him, PN does a retrospective at the end of every single project.

We’ve found it invaluable for the business, and I expect to get similar results with my Personal Retrospective.

How to do your own Personal Retrospective

To do a Personal Retrospective, you simply pick a particular project or time period and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s working? (“What did I do right? What am I proud of?”)
  • What’s not working? (“What could be improved? What are my biggest opportunities for growth?”)
  • How can I fix what’s not working for a better result? (“What specific things can I focus on next time?”)

Then you spend 15-30 minutes writing about each.

Nate’s 2015 Personal Retrospective

To give you an idea of how it’s done—and to encourage you to do the same—I want to share mine with you.

If I had to give 2015 a title, I’d call it “The year of getting out of my comfort zone, seeing the ‘The Big Picture’, and refocusing.”

Big Win #1: I did more public speaking and repeatedly faced my irrational fear of talking in front of large groups.

I gave four talks this year, and each one taught me something profound.

  1. The Toastmasters “Ice Breaker” speech: Everyone feels at least a little nervous getting in front of a crowd of strangers and talking. Speaking at Toastmasters helped me boost my confidence and practice my speeches in a very low-risk arena where I didn’t know anyone.
  2. The 3-hour focus and productivity workshop: Small groups are where I thrive. I felt engaged and enjoyed the ability to switch gears and tailor my material to the needs of the group. I felt like I made a genuine impact on each person.
  3. The fitness conference: I don’t feel as natural on stage, but I know it’s a skill that can be refined with more practice. My slides were on point, people laughed at my stories, and a few later told me how much it helped them. That’s all I can ask for.
  4. The eulogy: This was incredibly difficult. My good friend Kyle Hibler died this year at the age of 31 when he was hit by a car while walking to work. His death reminded me of how suddenly life can go away. Unlike my other talks, I didn’t feel an ounce of nervousness while giving Kyle’s eulogy. There was simply no room for it.

Me, Jason, and Kyle in 2002.

Big Win #2: I did work I was proud of.

  • I wrote a half-dozen newsletters, a couple blog posts, and an 8-part series on relationships. (It starts with the most embarrassing story I’ve ever published and ends with a little redemption and hope.)

  • I coached a few guys online and helped them get out of their rut, find a new direction with their business, and bring more balance back to their lives. This was incredibly rewarding work, and I’m thinking about doing more personal coaching in 2016.

“Working with Nate is like sitting in a coffee shop talking to a good friend, but instead of chatting about what you did last Friday night, you’re plotting a plan for domination.” Eric W, a guy I worked with this year.

  • And at Precision Nutrition, I contributed to some big, influential projects that will go on to help thousands of people. I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve done there.

Big Win #3: I took steps toward gaining even more freedom and autonomy. Plus, I set the stage to do even more personally meaningful work in 2016.

Richelle and I stayed debt free, contributed a good chunk of money to our “freedom fund”, and put most of our stuff in storage before setting off to travel.

We left Portland, spent two months back home in Montana, then traveled to Merida and Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where we’re currently enjoying the beach. From here, we’re heading to Southeast Asia, then on to Europe. Or wherever.

Agave fields in Mexico.

I also made a few difficult yet calculated decisions that I believe will allow me to do even more personally-meaningful work in 2016. But more on that later.

Question #2: What’s not  working? (“What could be improved? What are my biggest opportunities for growth?”)

Big Growth Opportunity #1: Continue to work on communication skills, especially reacting emotionally during charged conversations.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m very candid. That means I say what I think and share my feelings—oftentimes without thinking critically about what I’m about to say. Since I tend to hash out ideas verbally, I actually “think” while talking.

Because of my gregariousness, I can sometimes come off as brash and emotionally-reactive, which understandably makes some people uncomfortable.

“Venting” on an idea may help me formulate my thoughts, but it’s not necessarily an effective way to communicate all the time.

While I’ve trained myself to notice it either while I’m doing it or shortly after the interaction is over, I have yet to discover how to notice the urge to “vent” before it happens.

Big Growth Opportunity #2: Continue to work on flexibility and mobility.

When I don’t have a chair, I find it very hard to sit still for longer than a minute or two. (If you want to make me miserable just ask me to sit on the floor.)

I’ve paid lip-service to flexibility for the past couple of years, half-heartedly following a daily stretching routine. But honestly, I still tend to skip a good part of my warm-up and “forget” to stretch at least half the time.

Because of that, I often wake up tight and sore and often require a hot shower to “loosen up.”

Question #3: How can I fix what’s not working for a better result? (“What specific things can I focus on next time?”)

If I had to “80/20” the stuff I should work on — the stuff that will help me suffer less and become more effective in 2016 — my biggest opportunities are fixing my communication skills and becoming more flexible. (While maintaining my already-established good habits, of course).

I’ll likely talk to people and move my body around for the rest of my life—so it makes sense for me to focus on these weaker areas.

“In your professional life, it’s better to focus on your strengths. But in your personal life, it’s better to improve your weaknesses.” Phil Caravaggio

Below is how I plan on tackling them right off the bat, though I’m sure my specific action steps will change and transform throughout the year.

How I plan to become a better communicator.

Action step #1: Read the book Crucial Conversations, take notes, then perform an 80/20 analysis on my notes to identify the top 1-2 habits I should work on first.

Action step #2: In the meantime, I’m going to work on not interrupting people during conversations. When I notice the urge to speak, I will take a breath, continue to listen, and try to hear exactly what is being said before asking a question or beginning to talk.

How I plan to increase my flexibility.

I’ll do the following in PN-style fashion: pick one thing and focus on it completely for 2-4 weeks before moving on to the next action step.

Action step #1: Do my morning mobility and activation warm-up at least 80% of the time. That means I can only miss one day out of the week.

Action step #2: Follow a simple 5-minute mobility, stretching circuit before bed every night.

Action step #3: Set a timer for 60 minutes and do one stretch for one minute for every hour that I work at my computer.

Action step #4: Sit on the ground for at least 10 minutes and play with positions till they become more comfortable.

Write your own Personal Retrospective

So that’s mine. Now it’s your turn.

It’ll take you roughly an hour, but it could be the most important thing you do this year. After all, 2015 is almost over and  the new year will be here in a week.

What are you the most proud of? Where are your biggest growth opportunities?

And the biggest question: What are you going to do about them?

-Nate

PS – Here are a couple random things I think you’ll enjoy:

What I read to become a better public speaker:

A video of my friend Kyle sticking his head in a toilet after losing a bet. The guy was hilarious and would do anything for a laugh.

And finally, I’m going to be doing a LOT more projects, writing, and personal coaching in 2016. I’m very excited about this—and I hope you are, too.

Thanks, as always, for reading,

-Nate