I turned 47 during the weekend just passed.
I’ve decided to take a leaf out of Matt Mullenweg’s book and post a ‘Birthday Blog’. I’m aiming to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the last 365 days; some of the books, podcasts, apps and gadgets I’ve discovered and what my focus will be for the next 12 months. Having a birthday three weeks after New Year has given me two chances to reflect in close proximity and overall, I would classify the last year as one of the most enjoyable in recent memory.
47 has always been a significant number for me. Growing up, I lived at number 47, my phone number had that number in there … twice, and it seems to be a number that appears in my life at regular intervals. For that reason, I made the decision to have a 47th Birthday Bash instead of a 50th in three years’ time. Now that I’ve mentioned it, I’ll get you all to hold me accountable for that. NO Big 50th Anthony!
I achieved some significant milestones in 2017. Perhaps the most significant was the completion of my Masters in Coaching Psychology at the University of Sydney after four years of part time study. The final session covered applied positive psychology in executive coaching and it has proven to be a force multiplier with my own coaching practice. Helping people to understand their strengths and how they can use them to overcome their challenges has been incredibly rewarding.
It was great to see my son awarded age champion in the Illawarra for his cricket last year. We have both had to learn that success can be a double-edged sword. The expectation to repeat the same high performance, both for himself and others – including me – can place unnecessary pressure on young kids, and probably adults too. We have both had to learn how to enjoy the game when we’re having highs and reset our expectations and learn from the lows.
I’ve continued to refine my own theory on leadership into the new year. The short version is that I believe that a healthy curiosity about ourselves, the environment and others, along with a dose of vulnerability, allows us to build meaningful relationships with people. If we have relationships then we can influence and if we can influence, we can lead. Leadership is a set of behaviours that anyone at any level of an organisation can practice. Leadership is not a position. I am looking forward to continuing to revise my thoughts during 2018 and beyond.
There have been a few books, podcasts and apps that I have really enjoyed this year. I’ll write a bit more in detail about them in a future blog, however, here are some of the key highlights:
- The Audible app has been invaluable. I have done a few kilometres in my car this year (faithful Harry Honda) and while some people like to listen to music, I have grown to love listening to books. Some of the best ones will be listed below.
- If you’re looking to take up mindful meditation Headspace is the app for you. The first ten hours of mediation is free, so you can try before you buy. For more information you might want to check out the creator, Andy Puddicombe’s TED Talk.
- Books! Where to start on books? I’ve read and listened to so many this year. Perhaps the first one I would recommend is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. If you want to know how we got to where we are today, this book will open your eyes and challenge some of your assumptions. I also discovered Neil Gaiman as a writer last year (later than some, I know). He is such a creative story teller and I recommend you listen to Gaiman read his own books. You will become lost in the story very quickly. Finally, I would recommend anything by Malcolm Gladwell. He challenges the way we look at modern society in a very eloquent manner.
- I’ve continued to listen to the Tim Ferris Show as he continues to interview an eclectic mix of people about what tricks, tips and techniques have worked for them. There are so many to choose from and not every interviewee will appeal to everyone. A good start would be Conquering Fear and Reducing Anxiety with Caroline Paul or How not to be Evil with Dr Phil Zimbardo.
- When I am after something a bit lighter, and deeper as it turns out, I turn to the Infinite Monkey Cage. Professor Brian Cox and Robin Ince provide a fun and informative way to look at science and help us understand the physical world we live in a little better.
- Finally, I would like to give a shout out to The Bullet Journal. I discovered this method of journaling about twelve months ago and I have not looked back. It has proven to be a great way to keep a record of my day and my thoughts and how I use it continues to evolve.
Turning now to 2018, I have to admit I haven’t set any concrete goals as yet. Strange for an executive coach, you might think, however, I personally have not found them useful in the past. I would say my focus points for this year are more values based. With confidence these will contribute to success and learning (which in my book is the same thing) over the next twelve months.
One thing I have started to do is to look after my mind and body more. I have been focusing on building my physical strength through lifting weights at the gym with the amazing support of my partner. With her support, and the assistance last year of the 30-Day Sobriety Solution, I’ve changed my relationship with alcohol and have reduced my consumption significantly. I’ve also improved the way I eat. All of these factors have contributed to having more energy and feeling better about myself. My aim is to continue and realise compounding benefit over the next 12 months. In addition, I am resuming my meditative practice using the Headspace app, mentioned above.
Another focus for this year is to continue to build my curiosity about people in a non-judgemental manner and try to take other people’s perspectives. This will help with relationship building and with my own coaching practice. It is something that is difficult to do, as we all have our own biases ingrained from birth that we need to become aware of, so curiosity about self is something I will be focusing on too.
Finally, I want to take a leaf out of Mark Manson’s book and choose more carefully what I ‘give a fuck’ about. Last year I would become so frustrated that the neighbours couldn’t pick up their dog’s poop off my front lawn. This year, I’m realising there are more important things in the world to worry about and choosing where to focus is reducing my levels of stress and increasing my ability to place my energy where it’s needed.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. Thank you also to all of those people who have been an influence on me over the last twelve months. Sometimes even the smallest interaction can mean so much.
Oh, and thank you to everyone who came to the celebrations on the weekend. It was your presence that made it a great night.