As I write this blog on the eve of the new year, I can’t help but look back on my perspectives from years before. As some regard new year’s eve as just another day in the year, I believe it to be a milestone day of celebration, deep reflection, and introspection. At the close of 2015 and welcoming of 2016, I with-held from thinking about the future and pushed myself to think back on the year’s accomplishments, failures, and life influencing events. At the turn of 2014 into 2015, I forced myself to look forward, focus on growth and development, and not look back into the past. I gave each year a theme: 2015 was “ADVERSITY as fuel”, and 2016 was “AUTHENTICITY as fuel”.
Adversity was a word I needed to face and confront, and therefore be vulnerable and open to. The hardships and suffering I endured that year molded the vehicle I transformed myself into. I secretly used hardship, pain, fear, and anger to fuel my progress in education, career, and physical fitness. This machine I became set all time high records of performance across all aspects of my life. Did I feel good about it? YES! Did the good feeling last? Unfortunately no. ‘Adversity as fuel’ was not sustainable.
As a result of 2015’s unsustainable ‘adversity as fuel’ theme, I made ‘authenticity’ my new word. I needed to reconnect with myself, rekindle faith in my gut instinct, and entrust in those around me. I needed to shift away from using negatives as a motivator, and instead use the positive of self discovery as a guiding light. The oneness and sense of self-awareness I gained from this thematic shift enabled me to scale all of the groundbreaking achievements of 2015 and raise the bar even higher. My sizeable successes brought me to an esoteric state of pride and joy, a place in my career that I never dreamed would be possible. But this exponential growth came with its costs.
To be completely honest and open, my mind currently resides in a place of uncertainty, pressure, and trying times of rumination and self-doubt. I look back at this outstanding breakout year, and rationally examine its costs and benefits. I conquered new heights and milestones for “my brand”, but what did I do for me? I wrote a hero’s journey for the character Julian Ho, but left no ink to acknowledge the real author of the story. I was selfless when I could have been a little more selfish. I was selfish at crucial times when I should have been more selfless. This imbalance has retired me to a place of limbo. Do I feel good about the year’s accomplishments? YES! Has the good feeling lasted? Unfortunately no. The feeling evaporates every day that goes by. ‘Authenticity as fuel’ will continue to serve as a source of motivation, a beautiful theme for a life narrative, just not one for a single year of life.
What happens now? The surge of questions start to flood my mind...what’s your gameplan for 2017? What do you want to accomplish? What did you learn from 2016? How can you improve? Can you scale your successes and outdo yourself again in 2017?
Looking back, I see 2015 as the answer to the question ‘what are my limits?”. That year I laid the framework for ‘what’ I needed to do to test my limits physically and mentally. In order to become the man I wanted to be, I needed set and conquer goals that would shape the hero I was to become. I essentially created the mountain I needed to set afoot, and climb it at a pace beyond my mere mortal sensibility. I tested myself and explored new frontiers I always imagined.
Looking back, I see 2016 as an answer to the question of ‘how can I exceed my limits?’. In order to outdo the man I had become in 2015, I needed to set afoot the same mountain but climb with more bravado. I needed to shift more focus on fine tuning my execution. How I achieved things became more important than what I achieved. 2016 brought me to a level above and beyond the framework of 2015, to a place where I could love the man I was becoming. But was I climbing to the top of the mountain to see the world, or be seen by the world? I tested myself and explored new frontiers I never imagined.
Looking forward to 2017, I feel a desperate need to remove myself from this pattern of climbing. This mountain analogy is just getting old. I need to change it up. I’m tired of climbing and believe there’s another way to create an impact that is sustainable. I need to refresh myself in those present moments, and not retreat to the memories of the past.
Over the last two years, I’ve come up with mantra phrases that power my performance. I’ll read these every so often to reset, refuel, and reinvigorate. I add new phrases to the list when an epiphany occurs and the right words come along. Now that I read them with introspective eyes though, they remind me of an idealistic man that wants to be seen by the world.
Direction over destination
Presence over productivity
Calling over competition
Legacy over currency
Purpose over passion
Intention over intensity
Substance over style
Function over form
Giving over receiving
Brain over brawn
I look back at all that I’ve accomplished and can’t help but look forward and feel more pressure than pride, more self-doubt than self-satisfaction. Is my future bound to “Moore’s Law”, a doubling of growth year to year, perhaps infinitely? Is it reasonable to increase the scale of all of my efforts from 2016? Raise the bar even higher? Run two 125k ultramarathons, run 4 marathons, win two 5k road races, compete in a full Ironman instead of a half, create 8 masterclasses instead of 4, and double my 2.0 Summit guestlist from 100 to 200? It’s tough to warrant another go at it just like it’s tough to climb a mountain that gets steeper and steeper with no end in sight. When is enough, enough?
When people say “the journey IS the destination”, I completely agree, but I find it doesn’t justify the value of the destination. In order to fully understand something’s value, it must be taken away or somehow forgotten. In the case of life’s journey, a vast amount of effort must be placed on traversing the journey and experiencing it to the fullest, but what I’m getting at is the appreciation of the journey. “The sweet ain’t as sweet without the sour.” The journey wouldn’t be as sweet if we didn’t go off track sometimes, if we didn’t feel the pain and sorrows from the struggles, and if we didn’t lose our sense of direction and purpose once in awhile. What joy does the destination bring when we journey without appreciating each and every step?
I feel a new beginning is about to arrive just beyond the horizon. Instead of recreating the steps and reconquering the mountain of that idealistic man, I will not climb to be seen, I will climb to see again. This journey will be fueled by APPRECIATION and it will be guided by the mantra “Patience over Progress”. Appreciation requires that we be patient with progress. Progress requires pacing. When we pace ourselves with patience, we are provided with time to reflect, time to regenerate, and time to just be.
Though it may sound like I am in a state of limbo; lost, dazed and confused, the arrival to this realization is one that may save me from enduring another race up the mountain I may never come back from. As I enter my 30s, one thing I could never have predicted was my ability to self reflect, self monitor, and self love. Part of me really wants to take off up the mountain and never look back, but another part of me knows that the mountain will always be there. I love who I have become, someone who is self aware and satisfied, but also someone who is fascinated by being unaware and uncertain, unsettled with what is yet to come.