At the start of each new year I practice Chris Brogan’s “My Three Words” exercise. The idea is to select 3 words to guide you rather than making unrealistic resolutions you’re ultimately doomed to fail.
Your three words serve as a guide for handling every opportunity and challenge you’ll face in the upcoming year.
When you need to make a decision, stop and ask yourself “How does this fit in with the 3 words I’ve selected for the year?”
This is the eighth year in a row I’ve done this. Here are my previous three words:
2013: Growth, Responsive, Create
2014: Flourish, Traction, Metrics
2015: Voice, Starter, Journeyman
2016: Producer, Cultivate, Flow
2017: Ask, Rhythm, Breath
2018: Push, Elevate, Distill
2019: Vanward, Machine, Creative
My 3 Words for 2020
In 2019 I was able to see my favorite artist Sean Rowe perform live four times, including two intimate “house concerts”, where he literally plays a show in someone’s living room.
His song Gas Station Rose has the line:
We are the elders of our minds, We’re on our ownSean Rowe – Gas Station Rose (New Lore, 2017)
That lyric means “we control our own destiny, that it’s what we believe about ourselves that determines where we go.”
Making what I think and how I act based on everything I’ve learned along the way is what I want to focus on this year.
I also chose elder because I’m pushing 50 years old, and I’ve worked in software development in one way or another (as a developer, software architect, team lead, product manager, or project manager) for over 20 years.
As an “elder statesman” I want to do more teaching, mentoring, and sharing my experience and providing guidance like a “church elder”.
I’ve played a lot of poker. Online, cash games, and tournaments. It’s nothing like the movies where you spot someone’s “tell” and know exactly what they’re holding. Instead, you try to determine what range of hands they could be playing.
A range is a number of hands that depends on the situation and changes as the hand plays out.
I need to think about a range of hands I’m open to playing based on any given situation. A hand could be a potential project, partnership, job, or anything.
In 2020, I’ll ask:
Is this in my range of hands for this situation?
I’ll be quicker to muck a weak hand or go all in by asking what range of hands I’m willing to play in.
I’m not a golfer (unless you count mini-golf). I’ve been on a golf course a single time in my life with some friends in Door County, Wisconsin.
I have spent a lot of time at a driving range whacking at a bucket of golf balls. I never got very good at it. Maybe one of every ten shots went where I wanted it to, but it was a fun way to relax and relieve stress.
In golf, that first shot sets you up for success, or in my case, failure! You can’t be too aggressive or hold back too much or you’ll make it hard for yourself the rest of the way.
The best piece of advice I ever got was on that driving range from a guy that showed me how to setup before that swing. Think about your form, visualize the shot, take a deep breath, then swing away!
In fact, one of my words for 2017 was “breath”. To take a moment to pause, take a deep breath, collect my emotions, and then act or speak.
For me, the word Drive is not just about setting myself up for success, but to have the drive and motivation to keep pushing forward through difficult times.
Keeping my 3 Words in Mind
It’s easy to start forgetting about your 3 words as the year goes on. I would print mine out and hang them on the wall by my desk as a daily reminder.
This year for Christmas my wife got me this cool lightbox to keep them on display all year.
What Are Your 3 Words?
If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend thinking about the three words that will guide you through 2020 and what they mean to you!