A one-hour exercise to help you celebrate your biggest wins, identify your biggest opportunities, and prepare to dominate the upcoming year.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.)
- My friend Jason and I started a podcast: Two Friends Talking About Things. (Though we’re aware we haven’t updated it in a couple months. This will change soon.)
- 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.
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?
PS – Here are a couple random things I think you’ll enjoy:
What I read to become a better public speaker:
- How to prepare for a talk. (Tim Ferriss)
- Overcoming your fear of public speaking. (Sam Harris)
- Presentation Zen (a great book recommended to me by John Berardi)
- Confessions of a Public Speaker (Scott Berkun)
- How to give a eulogy (Esquire)
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,