I had started a new job towards the end of the year and was not yet well-known. At the Christmas dinner I sat near the CFO. The conversation veered to the subject of age.
When it was my turn I answered “Twenty-eight.”
“Wow” he replied, “I thought you were thirty-two.”
That is when I decided thirty-two was my year.
I wasn’t offended. I already had an idea I looked older than I was. This had developed into a view that we all have our ‘year’. The moment our age and our physical characteristics line up.
Have you noticed this phenomenon? You’re walking towards an obstacle, and there is someone coming the other way. You subconsiously adjust your pace and pass at the obstacle. Not before, and not after.
If you have then you know what I mean.
Thirty two. That was my year. Good things were going to happen.
I turned thirty-two while working as a consultant at IBM, a company I already felt lucky to work at.
I had two career goals at IBM. Work with the newest version of the software I advised on, and gain experience on a specific type of project.
That year, the year of thirty-two, I achieved both of those on the same project.
But the story does not end there.
In my roles I perform different types of analysis. I sit with clients or colleagues and help them work out what their what outcomes they want.
I had often thought about taking that approach to my personal life.
In the year I turned thirty-two, I did.
The New Years Eve before the previously mentioned project went live, I was at home waiting to go out. I had time and decided to give it a try. I would sit at my dining room table and analyse my own life.
“The more you know what you really want, and where you are really going, the more what everyone else is doing starts to diminish. The moments where you own path is most ambiguous, [that’s when] the voices of others, the distracting chaos in which we live, the social media static start to look large and become very threatening.”
I started thinking about the times I was happiest. I tried to spot the patterns in those moments. What was I doing that I could replicate?
Then I thought about what’s next? I was thirty-two after all. I had to think about what was next. I was right where I wanted to be in my career, I was single, and needed to think about life away from work.
I tried to come up with different ideas. I could travel. I could try a career change. But the same two thoughts would barge the others out the way.
I wanted to meet the woman I would marry, and I wanted kids.
I was nowhere near that.
But, I was thirty-two.
I thought nothing else of it.
Scheduled go-live on the project was the early in the new year, so work took over.
I had worked harder than I ever had before to be ready for the go-live weekend. I completed my work the Saturday so I could rest on Sunday, before users logged in for the first time on Monday.
I was playing touch-rugby on Sunday morning when my Project Manager called. Another team were running behind, could I help out? He needed me to work that afternoon and evening.
So there I was, in the last place I wanted to be, at that same dining room table, working.
That night, I met my wife.
We got engaged two months later, married a year later, and our first child was born a year after that.
Thirty-two. That was my year.
From time to time a theme emerges and dominates my thoughts.
This week it’s been the power of visualisation. The power of picturing and expressing what you want. The power of reflection, and how magical that reflection can be.
This started in December. I read How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. In the book Scott talks about the power of affirmations, and how he has used them to his advantage. For example, one of his earlier affirmations was “I, Scott Adams, will be a famous cartoonist.”
He is quick to point out that he does not believe this is magic, but a psychological phenomenon.
I agree. On some level all you’re doing is priming your mind to pay attention to the things you want it to, or need it to. You are reminding yourself what is important. When you set your mind up, you set up your subconscious to make the many tiny decisions that lead you where you want to go.
“It’s not what the vision is, its what the vision does.”
Then earlier this week I came across this post from Simon J Wood called “New Years Eve Ritual“. It is a lovely piece. Take the time to have a read. It is short, much shorter than this post. I am going to do this ritual.
Next came an episode of The Tim Ferriss Show with Debbie Millman. Debbie discusses an exercise she gives her students called “Your Ten-Year Plan for a Remarkable Life.”
She asks her students to, in her words, “imagine what your life could be if you could do anything you wanted, without any fear of failure.”
To quote Debbie further:
“… write this day, this one day 10 years from now. So one day in the winter of 2027 what does your whole day look like. Start from the minute you wake up, brush you teeth, have your coffee or tea, all the way through to when you tuck yourself in at night.
What is that day like for you?
Dream big. Dream without any fear. Write it all down. You don’t have to share it with anyone other than yourself. Put your whole heart into it. And write like there is no tomorrow. Write like your life depends on it, because it does.
And then read it once a year. And see what happens.”
This is an assignment Debbie herself was given earlier in her career. She goes on to talk about how much of what she wrote in that essay has come to pass.
Debbie’s story, and the post from Simon, reminded me of my own experience that New Years eve. My life did change as a direct result of that exercise. If I had not been clear on what I wanted, I would not have made the many tiny decisions required in the moment.
My challenge to you is to do the same. Write your own Ten Year plan or write to yourself every year. Surprise yourself.
I’ll leave you with this thought …
“If you don’t know where you’re going you will probably end up somewhere else.”Laurence J. Peter
p.s. If you are wondering how I met my wife on a Sunday night while working … we met through Internet Dating … but as I said … that is another story.
Featured image is “Fairmont Chateau, Lake Louise, Lake Louise, Canada” by Shane Hauser from Unsplash.com