It’s New Year’s Eve, which means your timeline is flooded with blog posts on why 2018 was the Best. Year. Ever.; and why we just need 2018 to end already because too many celebrities have died; as well as the 19 ways to make 2019 the Best. Year. Ever.
New Years is naturally a time of reflection, and of new beginnings.
A year is pretty arbitrary. It’s just the amount of time it takes for the earth to circumvent the sun.
Yet accomplishments, and the time it takes to achieve them, aren’t aligned to that time frame.
My 2018 feels incomplete. I have a lot that I wanted to accomplish, but the earth moved around the sun faster than I expected.
Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.
— Bill Gates
I overestimated what I could do in a year. That’s on me.
But it’s also because I felt pressure to have accomplished a lot in a year, because we feel obliged to measure against that timeframe.
What did you do this year?
Oh nothing, I just built a business and made $6 million.
Philadelphia 76ers former General Manager Sam Hinkie coined the term “Trust the Process”, as an ingenious rally cry for Sixers fans to get behind during what Hinkie and the team necessarily determined were going to be a few years of losing seasons.
During a 4-year stretch, the team was an abysmal 75–253, averaging 63 losses per season during those 4 years.
The 2015–16 76ers team, with a 10–72 record, had the second worst season in NBA history!
However, their horrible record that season led to the 1st overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, and the selection of Ben Simmons — now a cornerstone piece of an incredibly young team with tremendous upside.
Was 2015–16 a bad year for the 76ers?
Over that 4-year stretch, the team also made a total of 8 first round draft picks (most teams make one per year), as well as 12 second round draft picks.
The Process paid dividends, when in 2017–18 the team finished with a playoff birth, and a 52–30 record — their first 50-win season since 2001. The Sixers are now commonly regarded as one of the best teams in the league, with the most young talent and upside for seasons to come in both the near- and long-term.
Hinkie’s “Trust the Process” got the 76ers to zoom out, and look at the team on a different time scale.
And yet, we’re still assessing our own personal accomplishments one year at a time.
I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions.
If I have a goal I want to set or a new habit I want to develop, why should I wait, arbitrarily, until the end of the year to implement?
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
— Chinese Proverb
The ancient Chinese didn’t wait until New Years to plant their trees.
It also doesn’t take just a year for trees to grow.
If I planted 20 trees in 2018, did that make 2018 a good year?
Or, is it a good year only once I can pick the fruit of the trees I planted in 2018?
So, was 2018 a “good year”?
I don’t know. I had a lot of fun. I’ve met many new friends. I’ve learned a lot, and have grown a tremendous amount personally. I started a business. I moved to a new city. I developed a deeper relationship and intimacy with my partner. I traveled to three countries (plus the Copenhagen and Abu Dhabi airports). I started a meditation practice. I read 16 books. I started a 30-day blogging challenge on Medium.
I planted lots of trees.
But I also made the least amount of money this year in my professional life. At times, I’ve felt the greatest amounts of anxiety and sadness I’ve ever felt. I’ve zigzagged and dabbled, and felt lost. I’ve never been more uncertain about my path or the decisions I’ve made to get to this point in time.
Perhaps I’m the 2015–16 Philadelphia 76ers this year.
I feel tempted to categorize and qualify my year. But what’s the point?
I’m better off zooming out, and changing the time horizons with which I view my success and accomplishments.
So will 2019 be a good year?
Yes. I’ll keep planting, and my trees planted last year will keep growing.
And hopefully I’ll get to eat a few ripe fruits, too.