My Supposedly Annual Gratitude List
In 2007 I started an annual gratitude list as a way to measure whether I was living an intentional life. By choosing the hard road, opting out of a normal career and following my passions, was my life actually getting better?
This supposedly annual list is my answer to that question. Every year I try to come up with 52 interesting events or accomplishments (one for each week).
I fell off the wagon in 2013. I’m going to save the why for another post. This post is about getting back on the wagon.
Below are interesting events an accomplishments spanning February 12, 2013 (the last time I completed one of these lists) to December 31, 2015.
There should be 150 of them (and 470 total since I started doing these lists). Per usual, I went into this list thinking all I do is work and then discovered there was plenty of interesting leisure over the last three years.
(8) Writing about business
- How to win the race for leadership roles is part how-to and part political statement. We’re in a war between hubris and competence — I’d like to help competence win.
- Everything There is to Know About Startup Competition, for people who fall into the trap of thinking competition is their biggest risk. Real talk: your biggest risk is your own crummy execution.
- Super Human Cognitive Stamina is the meta answer for “What are the top habits of successful people?”
- Two-Time Wantrepreneur is where I came to the realization that I used to be a wannabe founder. I’m a lot more chill when someone tells me their fake business ideas now.
- I’m working up to a manifesto about the lack of responsibility that many high level people take for the outcomes of their jobs. This The Sad State of Job Titles is the pre-cursor to that manifesto.
- “The Credit Goes To…” is an excellent exercise in humility. Instead of writing your resume as a series of brags, write it as a series of credits to the people who gave you a chance.
- A Script for Firing People is something that I shared privately for a long time before posting publicly. Pat yourself on the back if you find difficult conversations taxing — that means you’re human. Scripts are one way to make them less taxing.
- Quora awarded me Top Writer status. It comes with special features and a fleece. Here are my answers.
(3) Writing based on Coach.me research
- How do you start a meditation habit based on real data. This is one of the cool things about sitting on Coach.me’s data. It’s big data for human performance.
- Pursuit of the Perfect Diet contains the results of a 12,000 person comparative study (that Coach.me ran) of popular diets. Do you want to know which diet was best?
- In the world of skepticism there are three levels, rubes, skeptics, and skeptics of skeptics. Rubes believe everything. Skeptics believe nothing. I’m at the third level — I’m skeptical of skeptics. This is my response to the skeptics who email me, “Why I stopped pretending I’m a robot.”
(2) Writing for fun
- Massive Video Primer for the NBA Finals is my favorite post that nobody read. We are living in the golden age of basketball and the 2015 NBA Finals were a work of art. If you watch the videos in my post you’ll have a much better sense of the artistry involved.
- What I would do as CEO of Twitter is a joke post that got a lot of page views. I just want someone to fix a bug that’s ruining my Notifications tab.
(5) Pivoted a Startup
- I mean really pivoted. Lift turned into Coach.me on Jan 1, 2015. I did a writeup of why Lift worked as an app but not as a company on ProductHunt.
- Got smarter. Lift is what I’d call a “wouldn’t-it-be-nice” startup. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone in the world used a gamified goal tracker? There was a product hypothesis but no growth or revenue concept. And it relied on creating a market where no market existed. Hard to do. Coach.me is a better-mousetrap startup. Digital coaching tackles the training and learning markets by making coaching higher quality and more accessible.
- Bought a domain name from someone else. First time I ever did this. Thankfully, the original owner of Coach.me was another entrepreneur. So it cost money but he was straight forward to deal with.
- Seems cliche, but fundraising is always interesting. It’s gotten more ok to say when you’re fundraising. We have an open convertible note right now. Ev, Spark and RRE led it during the week before Christmas. The note has a rolling close and the rest is reserved for strategic investors. It’s going to be oversubscribed. Obv.
- Did some other stuff that was painful in the moment but also really joyful once it was done. A founder once told me he didn’t want to pivot yet again because he didn’t think the team would follow. I thought he should have pivoted anyway and I’ve ended up putting my money where my mouth is. The Lift team was awesome and two of them have gone on to start companies that just raised money. The Coach.me team is a different team (some overlap, but with different roles) and they make me grateful on the daily.
(7) Major Coach.me launches
- We put a coach on your wrist. We’re one of the earliest adopters of the Apple Watch platform.
- Launched Better Humans, a publication on Medium, full of tricks for achieving excellence.
- Acquired Full. It was a minor acquisition — mostly to signal that we still take goal tracking seriously. Goal tracking is the basis of all coaching. It’s the difference between fantasizing about achievement and actual achievement.
- Launched a coaching marketplace. We invented a new branch of coaching based on asynchronous messaging. That format allows us to solve several tough coaching problems that are inherent in the traditional mode of delivery: geography, quality, availability. It didn’t start off this way — but digital coaching will end up being a much higher quality of coaching.
- Launched Digital Coaching Certification. We are the only current certification for this branch of coaching although it’s starting to take hold in many places beyond Coach.me (for example Talkspace and Rise).
- Built a leadership coaching specialty based on a three-fold strategy: start with a habit which will then trigger strategy discussions which will then expose patterns of behavior and bias. I think inventing and refining new coaching specializations is basically going to be my life’s work.
- Oh yeah, we also launched an Android version of Coach.me. I built the first version of this myself (one of my few meaningful code contributions to make it to production, although now long replaced).
- Spoke at Wisdom 2.0. The highlight was afterward where a Coach.me fan thanked me by giving me his sobriety chip. He’d used us to build the positive habits that helped him avoid falling backward.
- Spoke at the Neuroleadership Summit. David Rock is one of my coaching heroes.
- Spoke remotely to Grinnell students. I’m an alum. College-aged me would have thought it more likely that I’d receive a lifetime ban from speaking.
- I probably spoke on 20 or so podcasts. Two of my favorites were Productivityist and the Box of Crayons. The biggest was Art of Charm.
(5) I’m not only the president, I’m also a member (How I use Coach.me)
- Got my inbox together thanks to coaching from Coach Marshall.
- Nailed my productivity system with the help of coaching from Coach Willem.
- Tracked 4725 steps across 117 goals.
- Notably, gave up sugar for 185 days.
- I’m most consistent and dedicated to exercise. I swam 243,000 yards (about 138 miles).
(4) Notable Areas of Personal Growth
- Went on a retreat to Esalen which really kicked off my meditation practice. I now believe meditation is the key to elite performance (certainly true for my own performance).
- Learned this phrase from my coach Jonathan Rosenfeld, “The thing that got you there is now the thing that’s holding you back.” I probably use this phrase more than any other with new clients. It both recognizes your strengths and provides an epiphany.
- I switched from New Years Resolutions to Annual themes. I pick themes that resonate with me and remind me of a pattern that’s missing in my life. 2014 was the year of Hyperbole — I get that’s a funny thing to pick. But I’m an introvert and I’m at risk for forgetting to tell you that Coach.me is life changing organization. So for me, Hyperbole, is an overcorrection. And yes, it fits my sense of humor which is a little quirky.
- 2015 was the Year of Joy. I thought life was too intellectual and I wanted to balance it out with lots of smiling. That meant more comedy, more dancing, more time with friends.
(6) Developing Friendships
- I was a long time fan of Buster Benson. Now we’re actual friends. He’s also a Coach.me advisor.
- Met Ali Aydar at a meditation retreat. He loves basketball. One of many fine qualities.
- Reconnected with Graham Betchart. We were middle school basketball teammates. Now he’s a Mental Skills Coach for NBA players. Baller.
- Got to go to Jay Laney’s wedding. Such a great guy and I’m so happy for the two of them.
- Found a travel couple, Ken and Ethan. Ken and I are friends from high school. And the two of them travel well with Sarah and me(see travel section below).
- Found a new friend and travel buddy, Laura Crescimano. Laura and I often get together for founder therapy (i.e. cocktails). She also joined Sarah and me in Turkey. Now we just need to test whether she travels well with Ken and Ethan.
(8) Sportsball Baby!
- My favorite basketball team since childhood won the NBA championship in 2015. I still can’t believe this. They are breaking every stereotype of where success comes from: low-asshole factor, great collaboration, data over vision.
- Oh yeah, my other favorite team won a World Series in 2014. I was at Game 5 where SF beat KC 5–0
- My favorite game during this stretch was in 2014 when I took my mom to the Warriors vs Spurs Mother’s Day playoff game. That was the first time I thought the Warriors could be contenders. They won and my mom and I had a great time.
- In 2014 I went to three Warriors playoff games. I just kept thinking, “This might be as far as the Warriors ever get in the playoffs.”
- In 2015, I only went to one Warriors playoff game. Mostly I watched on TV with friends.
- On the baseball front, I did get to see the Giants play at the new Yankee Stadium.
- On the dream-come-true front, I filled in for my brother-in-law at Santa Clara University’s Father-Son basketball camp with one of my nephews. We killed. I can’t wait to go back.
- The same nephew also threw a Laser Tag themed birthday party. Pew. Pew. Pew.
(4) Adopted Youtube
- We canceled our cable and I moved most of my viewing over to YouTube. That’s where I discovered the best basketball channel, BBallBreakdown. Coach Nic will turn you into a basketball expert in no time.
- And also Pete Holmes. I’m a sucker for his nerd-themed comedy. And he’s what I would consider a very positive comedian — he’s just got a happy vibe.
- Honest Trailers — for example, Mad Max: Fury Road.
- And van-conversion porn. This is my ideal home.
(11) Travel and Trips
- Sarah and I went to Vancouver cuz my brother lives there.
- We also went to New Orleans with Ken and Ethan. It’s fun to find couples that you can vacation with. Also, we all loved New Orleans.
- We went with our friend Laura to Turkey. Istanbul was great but I really loved the southern coast. We were there at the tail end of summer, right after tourist season, so we had beautiful beaches all to ourselves. Favorite coastal spot was Cirali.
- I visited my brother again and at his girlfriend’s place on Salt Spring Island. Lots of memories — mostly of laying down on fields of moss.
- Sarah and I revived #pizzaquest in order to investigate New Jersey’s famed Tomato Pie. Our favorite was De Lorenzo’s.
- Sarah and I also launched #nachoquest. Best in NYC was Taqueria Diana.
- Fulfilled a lifelong dream to travel the country in a camper van. Sarah and I did a two week work-cation from SF to Yellowstone with our dog. Thumbs up for every part of this.
- Went to Las Vegas for a non-casino experience. My favorite was the Hoover Dam.
- My favorite Americana: The North Pole in upstate New York.
- Learned that breakfast tacos are amazing in Austin. I’m also now a big fan of Presidential Museums and want to go to all of them (this based on the LBJ museum).
- Tons of family travel: I count San Diego, Orange County for my youngest sister’s graduation, Dillon Beach twice, the Adirondacks, Boston, upstate New York.
(9) Material Goods That Ended Up Making Me Happier
- I was one of those two-cell-phone guys for awhile. I really liked my second Android phone (HTC one) until I dropped it and damaged the power button.
- This Mountain Bike is so much fun.
- I use the Canary home monitoring system to spy on our dog and to check if our house cleaner is out of the house (Is that spying? I just like to be out of the house while she’s there).
- The Sense is my new alarm clock.
- iPhone 6 Plus — this phone is too big, but now all other phones feel too small. I often watch TV on it.
- The Apple Watch is very cool.
- I feel late to the party, but a USB Charging Hub that’s placed conveniently in my home has led to more of my devices being charged when I need them to be.
- Garmin Edge 500. My favorite bike computer to date.
- Garmin 910X. My favorite exercise watch — especially in the pool.
(8) Joyful Events (all w/ Sarah)
- Darlene Love — she’s the most recognizable backup singer of all time. And she’s pretty great in person.
- Hack the Met — Nick Gray runs an excellent and subversive unofficial museum tour. A+++
- The Ting Tings — We don’t actually go to that much music. But they were super fun to see live (Brooklyn).
- Hamilton — legit.
- Surrealist Ball — great party with great friends.
- Hannibal Buress — here’s a great clip of him vs. a heckler.
- Penn & Teller in NYC — here’s a nice clip of Teller explaining magic.
- Verbena — threw a surprise party for Sarah in their private room. So great.
(9) I came back smarter or more cultured
- Exploratorium — the new one. We also did the tactile dome while we were there.
- Circumnavigation of Staten Island — these working harbor tours show a lot about how the world works that most people never see.
- Chinatown Scavenger Hunt (SF) — it was for kids, but I still saw stuff I didn’t know about. For example, you can buy live chickens.
- Kara Walker’s a Subtlety
- Mass MOCA — hard to get to, but generally one of my favorite art museums in the country.
- FLEXN — 21 person flex crew dancing at the Park Ave. Armory.
- Lick Observatory — we could see Half Dome from San Jose.
- Lean Startup Conference — I’m a big fan of Dan Milstein’s Risk, Information, Time and Money and Dan McKinley’s Data Driven Done Right.
- Quantified Self Tools Conference — so fun to hang out with peers.
(2) Thing I wish I’d done more than twice
- Marched in a National Moment of Silence from Union Square to Times Square. First time I’ve ever marched. Was worth it. #blacklivesmatter
- Marched again in San Francisco. New Yorkers have better chants.
(10) Best TV
- True Detective Season 1 — especially Rust’s philosophy.
- Great British Baking Show — I watch this show trying to understand the pursuit of excellence.
- Master of None.
- Fear the Walking Dead — better than the original, IMO.
- The Strain — apparently life isn’t hard enough so I watch tons of end-of-the-world fantasies.
- Silicon Valley. Hits close to home.
- The Affair — so painful to watch, but I couldn’t turn away.
- The Newsroom.
(10) Best Fiction Books
- Wool — more end-of-the-world fantasy.
- The Windup Girl — felt like modern cyberpunk responding to current issues of climate and copyright.
- Dune — Every time I reread it I understand it in a new light. This time was about human potential. The Bene Gesserit are what you’d get if you practiced Tiny Habits for thousands of years.
- The Remaining — zombies!!!
- The Affinities — societies w/in societies based on social networking.
- City of Stairs.
- The Martian.
- Foundation Trilogy — this was another re-read.
- The Bunker — end-of-the-world time-travel graphic novel.
(6) Best Non-Fiction
- Hatching Twitter — for the parts I know about, many facts were wrong but the story still rang true.
- Lawrence in Arabia — this is a great book that explains how dumb leaders are and how the current Middle East got cut up. Great history book.
- The Art of Learning — my favorite hack from him: working on a hard problem before bed loads it into your subconscious and then you can retrieve your thoughts the next morning through journaling.
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things — just the title was an epiphany.
- Harlem Hellfighters — graphic novel about the first African-American regiment to fight in World War I.
- Zen and the Art of Standup Comedy — I love learning the behind-the-scenes training of comedians. They are a perfect example of talent-is-overrated. They work, practice, test and refine obsessively.
(6) Most Thought-provoking Movies
- Fruitvale Station — inspired to be more political. This is bullshit.
- All is Lost — this is the silent-film lost-at-sea version of The Martian. I loved it.
- Whiplash — how unreasonable to you need to be in order to be great?
- Life Itself — the Roger Ebert documentary.
- 20 Feet From Stardom — documentary about backup singers.
- Love and Mercy — about Bryan Wilson of the Beach Boys.
(5) Best Action Movies
- Captain Phillips — intense.
- Mad Max: Fury Road — so great.
- World War Z — because I can’t get enough zombies!
- Inception — loved.
- Interstellar — also loved this.
(4) Best Comedies
- This is the End — hilarious.
- Seeking a Friend for the End of the World — sweet and funny.
- Ant-man — a caper flick. The offbrand Marvel movies are turning out great.
- Train Wreck — Lebron James is an acting revelation.
(7) Active Activities
- Great Saunter — a 32 mile organized walk around the perimeter of Manhattan.
- Merced Triathlon — my first triathlon.
- Marin Triathlon — my second.
- Indoor Triathlon — kind of goofy but still fun.
- Stanford Treeathlon — they’re trying to be punny. It’s a triathlon.
- Swimming with Eggs — he’s so athletic.
- Backpacking Skyline to Sea in the Santa Cruz Montains.
(4) Best Podcasts
- Tim Ferriss — we should just do a Coach.me newsletter “how to put this into action” because I almost always change up my goals after listening.
- Call Your Girlfriend — two smart friends makes for great listening. More guys should listen to this.
- Here’s the Thing — most recently, I enjoyed Alec Baldwin interviewing Jimmy Fallon.
- Serial — yes, I did get sucked into this along with everyone else. He’s innocent.
- XBOX One — had to get it.
- Forza Horizon — beat it. So good.
- Dragon Age — pretty good.
- Witcher — fantastic, just like everyone says.
Bonus Good Thing
One thing I’m extremely grateful for is to be in a long term partnership with a very interesting and lovely lady. Sarah and I celebrated ten years together, nine of those as co-parents to our dog Eggs. She’s my sounding board for business, travel partner, and initiator for many of the great things on my list. We continue our family tradition of ending each day by telling each other two good things. At this point, we’ve probably shared our gratitude for more than 13,000 events in our life.
Appendix: Here’s how I generate this list
The point of this list is to remind me of the good things in my life. Obviously, I don’t remember many of these off the top of my head, otherwise I wouldn’t need to make a list. So I start the list by going through various electronic histories.
- Search email for “Amazon Orders”
- Go through my FourSquare history
- Go through my Pictures
- Look at my Coach.me history
- Look through my Calendar
- Look through my Twitter
- Look at the previous year’s list.