Posts Tagged ‘goals’

2nd February
written by Randy

With six goals for this year, it’s possible that I may be taking on too much — especially with the reality that marathon training will consume a lot of time and energy. We’ll see.

But I’m tired of putting off until tomorrow what can be done today.

I have always wanted to be a good dancer. At present, there is no question that I am not. In fact, I’m not even an okay dancer. I’m an embarrassment to dancing.

So that’s going to change. Just as with my running goal, dancing is an activity that has always interfered with my belief that I can do anything. The only way to fix that situation is, of course, to learn and practice and become a good dancer.

Like running, this will be a great physical activity for me. One that will, hopefully, help me to improve health, my stamina, my posture, and my grace. (And being a good dancer doesn’t hurt with the ladies, either!)

At present, I haven’t figured out how to measure this goal. Dancing is a vague description, and “being a good dancer” is very subjective. I need to figure out what kind of dancing I will do, and I need to set a target for success.

For the moment, I think it must necessarily be some form of “ballroom dancing” — that seems fitting for my James Bond world-view. And it seems to me that the most interesting, most popular, most attractive ballroom dancing happens in the Latin discipline.

I spent an evening learning cha-cha with a friend last December and really enjoyed it, so I’ll probably start with that. I’m going to need to define a criteria for success soon. When I return from Italy, I’ll look into what kind of dance events happen around the end of the year, and find one to sign up for.

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22nd January
written by Randy

For the past 10 years, I have made my living as a programmer, and a damn good one. I’ve stayed familiar with current technologies and I have only accepted job offers from companies where I could grow and move forward, rather than sit and stagnate in old, comfortable skills.

Since the introduction of the iPhone, it was obvious that the world was changing, and as a programmer, it was never unclear how that would affect me. But what’s interesting is how slow actual businesses are to move toward what’s new, and how much slower developers are to learn those things.

It’s a catch-22. Businesses want their apps developed by people with experience building apps. Developers want their companies to give them that experience. Nobody gets ahead.

Today, it’s not just the iPhone. Today, we have the iPod and the iPad, and even AppleTV is using iOS. Who knows what will be next? The time is now. I need to have this skill, whether it’s for the purpose of getting a job somewhere else, or just for the sake of earning money from the sales of my own app.

Therefore, my fifth yearly challenge for 2011 is to put in the time, learn what I need to learn, do the work, make an app, and have it published on Apple’s App Store.

This involves more than just learning the language and APIs for iOS, it also includes becoming a registered developer, learning the ins-and-outs of the app store, and generating attention. Success in this will be measured by making an actual sale.

Now, it seems the first thing I need to do is figure out what kind of app the world needs…

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17th January
written by Randy

I have never been a good runner. In fact, I’ve never enjoyed running. In my early teens, we had to participate in the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge, some kind of fitness test that was conducted twice a year among students to encourage them to be healthier. The activities included chin-ups, stretching/flexibility, and running.

The first time I ever ran the mile, I was tired after one lap (one quarter mile), and utterly exhausted after the second, leaving me walking the last half. I came in with an embarrassing time somewhere over 12 minutes. The second time, I was able to get under 10.

The following year, I practiced running every day for a few weeks leading up to the big day, and I finished with a very acceptable 6-minute mile. It felt like a real accomplishment for me.

I also hated it. And since that year running was no longer a requirement, and I never bothered with it again. That was almost 20 years ago. Since then, in spite of the fact that I do enjoy walking a lot, I don’t think I have ever run one full mile.

I know people who love running. I have friends who enjoy it. I’ve had several coworkers who do it every chance they get. Some who love to compete in marathons. They get a high from running. What I’m saying is, these are people who can do something that I can not do.

And I don’t like that.

I believe I can do anything. I honestly, truly do. When we’re children, people tell us we can grow up to be anything, and we can do anything we put our minds to, and I believed that. Over the years, many people allowed life to beat that idea out of their heads, but it didn’t work on me — I still believe I can do anything and be anything.

However, I can’t hold that belief and then also look at the people around me, jealous of the fact that they can do something I can not. And as an alpha male, I’m not very good at deference.

So this year, I am going to run a marathon. In the course of one year — actually, less — I am going to transform myself from a person who hates running into a person capable of running 26 miles. I’ve registered for the Columbus Marathon on October 16th.

Without a doubt, completing this goal will result in a few other benefits as well. I expect that the increased cardiovascular activity should be good for my overall health. The extreme extent to which I’ll have to train should be the perfect cure for those last few nagging pounds I haven’t been able to shake. And there is sure to be a huge benefit in the form of mental strength.

I’ve faced a lot of big, scary things in my life, and I’ve taken on a lot of big challenges… but I have to admit that this one is the most intimidating yet. I hope I will succeed!

12th January
written by Randy

You probably already know that one of my goals every year is to learn a new language. This is something I’m particularly passionate about, and I deal with the topic more specifically on my language blog Yearlyglot, where I give tips about learning, share what I’ve learned, and update on my progress.

So here, I won’t go into all the details of how to learn a language, I’ll just be giving brief updates on my progress to learn a new language this year… and the language I have chosen to learn in 2011 is Turkish.

Choosing to learn a foreign language is a big task to undertake, and if you don’t have a strong interest in what you’re doing, you can’t be successful. I don’t just randomly choose languages for the sake of learning languages. I don’t want to waste my time learning something I’ll never use, and if the day ever arrives that there’s no new language that I want/need to use, my time as a “yearlyglot” will be done.

So… why did I choose Turkish? I chose for several reasons:

  • First, I really enjoyed my short visit to Uzbekistan last year. I took a great liking to Central Asia, and would love to visit more. Several Central Asian countries speak languages which are variants of Turkish, so knowing Turkish (the most prominent Turkic language) will make it easier to understand the rest of those languages.
  • I also have known several Turkish friends over the years, and would enjoy communicating with them in their language, as they do with me in mine.
  • I’m going to prove out a brand new language learning theory this year, and in order to get fair results, I needed to choose a language unlike any I already know, in order to avoid putting my results into question.
  • I want to visit Turkey! I think Turkish food is my favorite food on earth, and I know that Turkey has several beautiful vacation destinations, especially popular among Russians. Speaking Turkish would make me far more comfortable visiting this interesting place.
  • I enjoy the sounds of Turkish music, and I would love to know what they’re singing about!

So, that’s why I’ve chosen Turkish. I’m really looking forward to the end of this year, when I will (hopefully!) be a fluent Turkish speaker, and maybe even a trip to Istanbul next January!

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7th January
written by Randy

I’ve always had a tendency toward minimalism and reduction of personal possessions, but as a human there is still a tendency to want to keep what’s yours, and as an American it’s all too common to buy things.

My last week of 2010 — from Christmas to New Year’s Eve — was spent packing and moving to an apartment almost exactly one-half of the size of the one I was in, and that experience was a painful lesson in how much stuff you think you have versus how much you actually have.

Whether it’s clothes I don’t wear any more, or electronics I don’t use any more, or books, or equipment for hobbies for which I no longer have time, the bottom line is that there is a lot here that I don’t need to keep and didn’t need to move. And I don’t need it in my life.

The idea of owning 100 items or less is well-known among internet minimalist bloggers, so it’s a good place to start. I have a feeling that my target might change a bit as the year wears on, because the definition of a “thing” is different for everyone. Most people count all the accessories for an item with that item. Many people group things together, such as counting all socks as one item.

So the target is still kind of vague, and it will need to be more well-defined as the year goes on. I have some ideas about that, including the possibility of defining the goal as a certain total weight of all possessions, or perhaps a total volume, to measure portability. We’ll see.

I spend most of December living out of just a backpack as I jetted around the US, and I will be spending the next month in Iiving the same way as I wander by train around Italy. These experiences are giving me a really clear idea of exactly how little I need in life, and how much of this stuff I can live without.

When I get back home in mid-February, I will begin the process of selling off everything of value and throwing away what’s left, as well as searching for a the best way to define my target for success this year.

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2nd January
written by Randy

The very first thing on my list for 2011 is more travel. I had such an incredible time last year seeing all 48 of the continental United States. I came two states short of reaching my goal to visit all 50 (and I intend to finish up those last two this year!) but the experiences I had were really quite amazing.

I think travel provides me with the closest thing to a spiritual experience that I’ve personally ever known, and I plan to keep doing it for the rest of my life.

Now that I’ve seen the US, I want to see everything else… starting with Europe.

Saying you’ve visited a country can be sort of a cop-out. After all, I was in Germany on 4 separate occasions last year, but I never stepped outside of an aiport during any of those times. Sure, people spoke German, and I was in Germany, eating German food and spending euros… but it’s not the same. It doesn’t really count, does it?

Thus, I’ve decided to design this goal around visiting cities, rather than countries. There are a few things that make cities more a better goal for travel — or at least it’s better for my style of travel. Here are a few reasons:

You have to leave the airport to see the city! Sounds obvious, but how you frame an idea in your mind is important. Have I been in Germany? Yes. Have I seen Münich, Düsseldorf, or Frankfurt? No. You have to leave the airport to see the city.

Many countries have very different cultures in various regions. If the goal was to visit Germany, you could do the obvious thing and go to Berlin, but you would miss the lilt and personality of Köln, the Bavarian culture of Münich, etc. If the goal was to visit Spain, you could go to Barcelona, but you would miss everything that makes Madrid, Pamplona, and Valencia unique.

There are a lot of cities! If you were paying attention to the names in the previous paragraph, you noticed that there are a lot of things to see! France has Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille. Italy has Rome, Venice, Milan, Florence. Poland has Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw. And so on! There’s so much to see, why stop at just setting foot in the country?

So… my first goal for 2011 is to visit 20 European cities. It’s less than 50 states, but it’s much farther away, and more expensive to reach! I came really close to reaching my goal of 50 states, but in doing so I saw much more than 50 cities. So, I hope I’ll do that well with this goal.

As with any year-long goal, it’s easier to be successful if you get started early. And I’m getting started in just 10 days! As you may know, I spent last year learning Italian, and my reward is that this year I will visit Italy for 30 days!

On January 11th I will land in Rome, and then I will spend the next month wandering around Italy by train. I intend to visit Rome, Florence, Bologna, Venice, Milan, and whatever else I have time for, so the year is off to a good start!

30th December
written by Randy

Have you ever noticed how many people make New Year’s resolutions? And how many of them seem to fail at those resolutions?

Have you ever wondered why? I mean it seems like most of the resolutions people make are pretty simple. They sound easy. So why is it so common to fail at a New Year’s resolution?

Because most resolutions are cop-outs. Just look at the most common resolutions people make.

I believe there are three kinds of cop-out that represent the majority of New Year’s resolutions that people make:

  • It’s too easy. A lot of New Year’s resolutions are painfully simple — things like quit smoking, quit drinking, go to the theater, etc., where the completion of the task is literally a binary state that could be flipped by simply doing the thing you say, rather than wasting your time writing or saying it.

    Let’s be honest, either you smoke or you don’t — there’s really no work involved in that choice. And whether or not the process of quitting is difficult for some people, the fact is, that it’s literally a one-second decision. And when you know that, it’s easy to put it off when you’ve got a whole year.

  • It’s too general. Another kind of resolution that’s way to common is lose weight, get in shape, start working out, where the statement of the goal implies something big, but the actual goal is never defined. There is nothing to measure for success.

    When your resolution is to “start working out”, one trip to the gym satisfies that. But we all know it’s not what you meant. When your goal is to “get in shape”, you have know idea what it would mean to succeed, so you’re probably going to fail. Success requires metrics: tangible measurable results.

  • It’s superficial or disingenuous. The third kind of resolution that is destined to fail is the one you don’t really mean anyway. Things like give to charity, or be nicer to people, or learn to be more caring.

    Usually, these are not real goals at all. Most of the time, these are little more than token gestures to acknowledge a character flaw in yourself without actually doing anything to fix it. If you make a resolution like this, we all know you have no intention of actually doing it.

So how is the yearly challenge different? Simple. The yearly challenge is difficult, it’s specific, and it’s genuine. It’s an honest goal, and it has measurable results. Here are some examples, to highlight the difference:

New Year’s resolution: lose weight
Yearly challenge: get my weight below 200 lbs.

New Year’s resolution: get in shape
Yearly challenge: run a 6-minute mile

New Year’s resolution: start saving
Yearly challenge: save $8,000

New Year’s resolution: see the US
Yearly challenge: visit all 50 states

New Year’s resolution: learn Italian
Yearly challenge: read Pinocchio in the original Italian

Do you see the difference? The point of the yearly challenge is to give you a challenging task, with well-defined criteria for success. When you can see the numbers involved in your goal, it’s easy to figure out where you need to be every step of the way, in order to be successful. And when you make the task big, there will be pressure on you to start making progress right away.

Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to lay out some specific goals; big things I plan to do with my 2011. Then, I will spend this year sharing my progress with you. I’ve got some exciting things planned, and I’m already anxious to get started.

So what will your yearly challenge be? What great thing(s) are you going to accomplish in the coming year? Leave a comment and let me know!

26th December
written by Randy

How do you have an amazing year? What do I do to make each year unbelievable and memorable, worth thinking about and talking about? The key to my happiness in life, and why my years are so memorable is that I make them that way. I choose it.

And the point of this web site is to share that with you. Not only do I want to share my adventures with you, but I also want to help you to plan your own adventures, and to complete your own yearly challenges, so that you can have an amazing year, every year, as I do!

Pushing boundaries

The most important ingredient in my happiness is pushing boundaries. Whatever is intimidating, scary, or seemingly difficult, that’s what I do. Doing things you already know doesn’t help you to grow. You only grow when you do things you don’t already know, or haven’t already done.

I believe that you have to step to the edge of your comfort, and willingly cross that line. You have to face your fears, and conquer them. If you’re afraid of heights, you have to go bungee jumping. Or skydiving. After that, looking down from the top of a ladder is nothing.

When I had never been out of the country, I planned a trip and left. When I had never seen the whole United States, I set out to visit every state. I’ve spent years without a television. When everyone uses a car, I got rid of mine. When everyone is dependent on the security of their cell phones and alarm clocks, I ditched mine. I even spent one full year without owning a bed. Pushing those boundaries has helped me to grow, by showing me possibilities outside of the things I had previously taken for granted.

Becoming a “yes” man

Pushing boundaries starts with the simple act of changing your “no” to a “yes”. We go through our lives casually saying “no” to things we don’t know, don’t understand, or haven’t experienced… especially when we fear those things.

It’s easy to say no to skydiving, or bungee jumping, because no one is going to judge you for having a fear of those things. And it’s easy to say no to trying some strange food from a foreign place, because people generally don’t judge you for thinking it’s weird, or looks gross.

But at the end of the year, are you going to reflect fondly on how consistently you’ve chosen the “safe” meal? Will you beam with pride as you tell the story of refusing a chance to free fall from 160-feet? Does anyone ever look back on their year and tell people how happy it made them to say no to an amazing adventure?

When my friend asked me to meet in Barcelona, my reflexive action was to think about work, and money, and say “no, I can’t”. But instead of doing that, I asked myself if there was really any reason why I couldn’t do it, and there was none. So I went, and I had a great time. And when my friend asked me to go cha-cha dancing, my instinct was to spare myself the embarassment of being a bad dancer, but instead of doing that, I considered that I’ll always be a bad dancer if I don’t start doing it, so I went and learned and had an amazing time.

If you want to have an amazing year, you have to learn to say yes to doing crazy things.

The power of one year

Often, when a thing is particularly difficult, or requires a lot of practice or training or investment of time, there is a tendency to keep putting it off until later, thinking the difference in time is insignificant on the long timeline of life. But things can only happen now or later, right? You can’t decide now to make things happen before now.

So your choice is either now or later. But even though the present is always “now”, it’s always moving! With every second that passes, now gets later and later. And if now is later, then later might as well be never! So what you thought was now or later, is really now or never.

A year gives you a boundary. It’s a long time — long enough to do a lot of things — but it’s also limited; it’s short. Giving youself a year means you have to start now, and you have to make steady progress. It means taking your goal seriously, rather than putting it off endlessly.

If that sounds like a bit of pressure, it is. It’s natural to want to say no, to back out of things, and to avoid risks. But when you get over that inclination and finally take your first step toward meeting your goal, you give yourself one of the best feelings a human can experience — the feeling of accomplishment.

And the sense of accomplishment after you complete your goal is even better. It will give you wonderfully interesting things to talk about with everyone you know. It will make you an inspiration to the people you meet. And it will win you respect from people, especially the one person whose respect you need most: yourself.

The yearly challenge is about setting those big goals, and then completing them. The new year is almost here, so how will you make 2011 amazing? What are you going to do? What personal boundaries are you going to push? What are you going to say yes to? What big thing are you finally going to accomplish in the coming year? Leave me some comments and let me know!

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22nd December
written by Randy

As you can see from the name I chose for this site, this has truly been an amazing year. In fact, my life has changed dramatically this year. With the year coming to an end, I want to look back at how much I’ve seen and done, and share with you some of the many things that have made this such an amazing year for me.

It all started when I created a popular language blog. I started it as a way to share language learning advice with a few friends, to save me the work of typing the same thing several times. But it rapidly grew into something very popular, much faster and more successfully than I could have ever imagined or hoped it would.

The commitment to learn a new language every year has led to some really incredible meetings and opportunities in regular life, too. It has given me unique things to talk about with people I don’t know, and it has resulted in me being told on many occasions, “you are by far the most interesting person I’ve met in a long time.” I can’t tell you how nice it feels to hear things like that!

At the end of winter, I reconnected with a good friend, who I hadn’t seen or heard from in almost 20 years, thanks to Facebook. We were emailing our hellos on a Tuesday, and by that Friday I had flown to see him. It was great catching up, and for a gypsy like me, it was also quite meaningful to connect the present with something from that far into the past.

This spring, I visited Uzbekistan, which was also my first ever trip outside of the country. While there, I met a friend who I’d previously only known over the internet. I survived on my own in a non-English speaking part of the world. Oh, and I at horse… that was memorable. And delicious.

By summer, I paid off the last of my credit card debt, a sum that at one time had totalled almost $50,000. Being completely debt free has absolutely changed my life. And doing it the honest way — by working hard and paying it off as agreed — gives me a great sense of pride and accomplishment.

At the end of summer, I spent a week in Barcelona, seeing the sights, meeting new people, and even hanging out with some really great Russians. I ate tapas and paella, I went to a topless beach, and I slapped a hooker for touching me on the ass.

This fall, I cancelled my cell phone, and I have been completely phoneless ever since. I have lived happily for four months without a cell phone or a home phone, and the difference I experience in my quality of life is unbelievable.

Shortly thereafter, I threw away my alarm clock. I haven’t owned a clock of any kind for two months, and I haven’t woken up to the sound of an alarm in even longer than that. My days start out so pleasantly, I can’t imagine ever having another clock.

In a process which took almost a whole year to complete, I had my photography published. I was contacted by someone who had seen and liked my photos, and I was invited to be part of a collection including some of the best names in photography today. It’s nice to be published, but it’s even nicer to be discovered.

As I promised at the beginning of the year, I learned to speak Italian fluently. There were a few times when I wondered if I would succeed, but one evening, sitting at a pizza shop telling my Italian friend a story from my past, the moment hit me when I realized that I had just reached fluency. That’s a new tool that will be with me for the rest of my life.

I’ve completed several of the tasks from my bucket list, the most memorable of which was that I bungee jumped for the first time. Standing in a high place, looking down, and making the conscious decision to jump head first, trusting in some piece of stretchy cord to protect you… well, that kind of changes your perspective on life.

I have set foot in all 48 of the continental states of the US. I fell short of all 50 states by two: Alaska and Hawaii, which are admittedly the most difficult. But I’ll be sure to visit those next year, and then my task will be official and complete.

I travelled a lot, and I saw several important and/or historical sites for the first time, including:

  • the Space Needle
  • the Gateway Arch
  • Mount Rushmore
  • the Crazy Horse monument
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Old Faithful
  • the Alamo
  • Taos pueblo
  • Oklahoma City National Monument
  • the site of the JFK assassination
  • Little Rock Central High School
  • the Hollywood Boulevard “Walk of Fame”

Many of the things I saw affected me in a really deep way, especially those I saw in the first half of December. More than anything else, seeing the entire continental US has given me a really clear understanding of what this country is, and where it has been. I feel that I can honestly say, I know what it means to be an American.

But perhaps the most significant of all things is that throughout my travels this year, I have met with dozens of truly amazing people with whom I’ve connected online though my blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and other social networks. In meeting these people, I’ve had several really profound experiences, and it has all taught me the most valuable lesson of all this year: possessions don’t matter, things don’t matter, money doesn’t matter; only the people you meet and the experiences you share… only the memories you carry with you can truly make you happy.