2023 in One Word

I hope your new year is going well so far. One of the joys of publishing semi-regular posts on this blog is that it provides a way for me to reconnect with friends from my past. I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, and since graduating from high school, I have lived and made lifelong friends in so many California communities: the San Francisco Bay Area, Lodi, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, and now in Orange County. Through this blog, I have found a way to re-connect with all of these friends from different phases of my life.

You may remember that when I was sixteen, my dad got me a job working in a hardware store in Sacramento. I drove 2,000 miles by myself (once again, since some of you questioned me last time, this is 100% true) to Sacramento, and moved in with the Welker family, who were long-time friends of my parents. Laura Welker was one of the children in that family, and almost forty-five years later, she somehow found my blog site and reached out through the comments. I was able to talk with Laura and her mom Carol a couple of months ago, and I loved our reminiscences. A few days ago, Laura let me know that her mom passed away peacefully last weekend. I am grateful that the always kind and caring Carol Welker took me in back in 1978, making me feel like part of the family, and I feel fortunate that my writing helped us to re-connect before her passing.

In my first post of 2023, let me give a special thank you to all of you from all phases of my life with whom I’ve reconnected or stayed connected as a result of this blog. We are who we are because of the relationships we’ve made throughout our lives, whether those bonds are incredibly long and close, or just a momentary breeze from a butterfly’s wings. I’m grateful and better for all of it.

Speaking of aspiring to be better, I love making New Year’s Resolutions. While I don’t do everything I want to do, I find that making goals helps me make progress. Last year about this time, I wrote about my resolutions using Steven Covey’s Seven Habits as my guide. As I started thinking about my resolutions for this year, I began reading about a new trend – the one-word resolution – for the new year. If simplicity is a good thing, it does not get much easier than a one-word resolution. That word could provide focus, direction, or help with decision-making, and ultimately be a guide for your thinking throughout the year. I was with a group of close friends recently and I introduced this concept. I gave them a list initially suggested by an article in The Washington Post, but augmented with words from similar articles, plus other terms that Jill and I thought of. We all went around the table and shared two or three we were each considering for 2023, adding new words to the list in the process.  It was an interesting and insightful conversation, and yes, I have included the list at the bottom of this post for your review too. (Side note – I bet many of you are thinking: never accept an invitation to hang out with Mike – Handouts? Word lists? Come on, man! Get a life!)

If you were wondering, the two words that I have chosen are creativity and self-discipline. When I am at my best, I weave a lot of creativity into my life. That can come from cooking, writing, music, reading, and just from taking the time to think and reflect. While I started the year strong in those areas, this year has reminded me that finding the right balance between work and home takes thought, commitment, and dedication. Hence my second word.

The busier I am, the more self-discipline I need to get my priorities accomplished. I read an article from Forbes magazine by Brent Gleeson. He wrote one of the best-titled books I’ve seen in a while, Embrace the Suck: The Navy SEAL Way to an Extraordinary Life. He begins this particular article with a quote from Plato: “The first and best victory is to conquer self.” My recently retired friend Ben blocks out his day in increments of 15 minutes. It allows him to be creative, fulfill a gazillion volunteer responsibilities, and get a whole lot done. That’s too much structure for me, but I admire the heck out of it. If I’m going to be more creative, I know I need to find my own way of being more self-disciplined.

So, creativity and self-discipline are my two words. I’m not creative enough to find a new term that combines them, and I’m not self-disciplined enough to choose just one. Clearly, I have work to do.

If you have more words to add to the list, let me know! And thank you for reading this post, while giving me the opportunity to stay connected. Let’s have a great 2023!


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2023 Image by Rosy Ziegler at Pixabay

On New Year’s Resolutions

What do I want said about me when I die? That was a question posed to me in Michael Hyatt’s Living Forward book. He encourages readers to write their own eulogy, then live their life so that they live up to those words. “By writing the eulogy as if it’s being delivered today, you may see some gaps between what people would say and what you would like them to say. That can be unsettling for some people, but news flash: You’re still alive and have the power to change the course of your life!”

I love stuff like that. And I hope that more than half of the people at my funeral say nice things about me! A guy can dream, right?

I know there are plenty of haters out there, but I love New Year’s Resolutions. I spend time thinking about them, and I actually write them down. I’ve done it forever and I have no intention of quitting now.

Probably the biggest change for me this year is two items that are no longer on my resolution list. For the first time in almost 40 years, I have no goals related to a specific job. That is still beyond mind-blowing to me. After four months of not working, I’m still not used to it, but I do like it. A lot. One of my favorite Kenny Chesney songs is The Life. The chorus in the song is about what retirement could look like, and it goes, “I fish, play my guitar, laugh at the bar with my friends, go home to my wife, and pray every night, I can do it all over again.” Substitute golf for fishing (I think they are similar in many ways – social sports performed in beautiful places that are really hard to do well), and you have a pretty idyllic existence. But I’m not ready for “The Life” yet. I have always believed and I still believe that if you are not growing, you are dying.

Also for the first time in decades, losing weight is NOT one of my resolutions. Thanks to a massive reduction in stress in my life, and a new guide to food intake, I have lost enough of the weight that I’ve been holding onto for a long time. At the suggestion of a very good friend, I have been on the Noom diet for two months now. I did not have a ton to lose, but when my knee doctor told me to lose some weight and my knee might feel better (aka – she called me fat), I knew that it was more than getting my BMI below 25. Now my goal is just to eat healthily for the rest of my life, except for a few times. And let’s be clear – there will be some big calorie meals. I believe that you can’t trust a skinny cook. If I’m making good stuff, or if I’m presented with spectacular food, I’m eating it. I don’t need to be skinny, but I need to be light enough to be healthy and to reduce the load on my back and my knees.

Steven Covey called this quest for continuous improvement “sharpening the saw.” He told a story of a person coming upon a logger who is exhausted, as he has been sawing on a big tree for three hours. When the logger hears the suggestion to stop and sharpen the saw, he says, “I don’t have time. I’m too busy sawing.” That’s the problem. If we don’t take time to sharpen the saw, we are wasting time and being highly ineffective. And not to be hyperbolic, but again, if we are not sharpening our own saws, we are dying.

When the logger hears the suggestion to stop and sharpen the saw, he says, “I don’t have time. I’m too busy sawing.”

How am I sharpening my physical saw? Well, as I said, I’ve been spending a lot of time recently sharpening my physical saw with Noom – and I want to continue to do this. A lot of the food choices in Noom echo what I have been reading in the Blue Zones research. Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, echoes the advice, writing, “Eat food. Not a lot. Mostly plants.” I’m working on expanding that into a haiku.

I’ve always been an avid exercise fan, and I continue to follow the advice in Younger Next Year, pushing myself hard when I work out (following up on my last post, I swam 10,000 yards with a group of crazy people on New Year’s Day!), doing my best to avoid the body decay that time wants to impose. And one day, I will learn how to sleep more than six hours a night. Maybe.

How about my social and emotional saw? Now that I don’t have the built-in ease of being social at work (which I do miss), I have to work on this more. Being a better husband, father, sibling, son, and friend is hard work. And while those who love us the most can forgive long lapses in communication, it’s better not to have to ask for that forgiveness.

And while those who love us the most can forgive long lapses in communication, it’s better not to have to ask for that forgiveness.

My mental saw is probably the one I have to work on the most. While I was working, I was always learning. I was learning from teachers, from principals, and from new challenging situations. Every day was something new. Saw sharpening was unavoidable. Now, I have to take initiative. I will do that primarily through my writing. And all the while, I’ll continue to follow the Make Your Bed advice: never give up, and get stuff done every day.

I’m not itching to go back to working 70 hours a week, and these writing projects will give me academic and mental challenge, meaning, and a way to continue pursuing my passion for public education.

And finally, I have to sharpen my spiritual saw. I was raised as a Catholic, but I have also worshipped as a Presbyterian and as a Methodist. I do not attend church at this point in my life, but I still hold dear the lessons I learned from those years of church. I believe all of the world’s religions hold truth and inspiration. I don’t have one of those coexist bumper stickers on my car, but the world would be a better place if we all could coexist. If I have a text that I would call my Bible, it would be The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. Relying on inspiration from all of the world’s major religions, he focuses on finding personal peace from the craziness we often make for ourselves, and freeing ourselves from our own incessant thinking by focusing on the present moment and nothing else. On a more practical spiritual level, I seek to follow Marie Kondo’s advice and continue to simplify and enjoy what I have. And I am seeking to declutter my mind out on the golf course, following the advice in Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, and accept the failures that happen on the course, get over it, and focus on doing well on the next shot. Like a lot of things in golf, it carries over as good life advice.

I hope that we all can give ourselves the luxury of time invested in ourselves this year, as we sharpen our saws and do what we can to not only tread water, but to swim even faster towards our goals this year.


Books that guide my resolutions for this year: