Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Not necessarily in that order.
- Tim Burton
Take A Year On
This page is a review of my 1 year project to record a daily audio journal every single day. I started on July 19, 2016 and ended one year later on July 12, 2017***.
If you listen to the first 60 days you'll notice I didn't start out knowing that this would be "a year on in life". At some point along the way I let go of doing what I was supposed to do and fell into my own self directed learning journey.
The project is now called "taking a Year On In Life".
***(8/22/17) - I later learned, a month after finishing episode 366, that my measurement was off by 7 days! I must have made a mistake somewhere along the way. This mistake does not change what I learned. I will post a note here when I find where I made the mistake.
This project was life-changing for me and lead to me realizing the most important thing I have ever learned. I am only beginning to digest and process what I discovered. It was not my intention to learn what I learned but I will be forever grateful for the experience.
I hope you choose to take a year on in life too! When you do please send me an email to chris at unstuckschool.com.
Before I started this project:
- Deeply interested in learning how to help people get unstuck.
- Stuck myself and embarrassed that I could feel this way.
- Feeling very lost and confused about what I was doing.
- Living month to month in the most expensive city in the world.
- Something to be normal and consistent in my life
- To let go of expectations from myself and others
- To feel good about myself again. (I was lost)
- A safe space to play and learn.
- To have fun
- A place to store and make sense of all that I had in my head.
- Consistency in my life while not knowing what was next
- To get unstuck myself.
- To embrace being a beginner
- To show up and bring awareness to every day
- To give up on being right, looking right, or sounding right.
I. The beginning: It's ok not to know
This project started on July 19, 2016 with Day 1 - It is ok not to know. When I started, I was going through a major transition in my life. I wanted to explore what it means to be stuck and I wanted to learn how to help people get unstuck but I was feeling stuck too.
I wanted to create a daily deliberate practice of reviewing something I had learned but I needed that practice to fit into my daily life, while trying to pay the bills and deal with the insecurity of not knowing where my next paycheck would come from.
I decided to record a daily podcast that would be recorded the same day I published with no editing or expensive equipment. My primary goal was to embrace being a beginner (Day 3) and show up every day to get unstuck.
At the time I didn't think of this as "audio journalling". I thought of what I was creating as a "podcast" or "show" or "business of some kind". In the end I learned that non of these were right and I discovered what was really important to me.
II. The End: A Year On In Life
After recording a daily audio journal every day for a year a few amazing things surprised me:
- The audience doesn't matter - at least when it comes to doing your best: At first I thought I was doing this to be heard but after a few days and after reviewing the entire year I noticed that my actions spoke louder than my words. I kept saying I wanted people to listen or I would publish this on iTunes but I never did. This points to a deeper reason for doing this work that I wasn't able to articulate or understand before I started. (But I understand this now)
- This is not a show, business or podcast: I repeatedly stated that this project was about x or y or z but in the end I think I was playing and learning in the open regardless of the outcome. Looking back on the exercise, I was only talking about it being a show or business or podcast because I thought I was supposed to say that in order to fit in.
- Repeatedly showing up is what matters (NOT THE CONTENT): #1 and #2 lead me to this point: repeatedly showing up is what mattered. By showing up I mean physically and mentally stopping myself durring my busy day (just like everyone else). In order to record an entry I would have to stop and take a breath, collect my thoughts and execute. After reviewing about 50 of my favorite episodes I've realized that the content was not the source of my love for this project or what lead to this being a valuable exercise. What really mattered was the behavior immediately preceding a recording. Because I recorded live every day I was forced to take a moment to scan myself, my mindset, and prepare myself for the activity of recording. After taking some time to reflect on this realization I can see that this unnoticed behavior is what I was really practicing and what I really needed. From a daily perspective: The recording of a show, podcast or episode was really an excuse to take a few minutes to breath, review, reset and then create something every day. From a macro / year long perspective: the act of showing up daily gave me a clear understanding of my story and how I perceived my reality from day to day, week to week, month to month and over the year. I believe this daily routine lead to me having an amazing year and being where I am today.
- Awareness is a habit: Simply put - It became a habit to take a moment in my day to reflect, calm down, pick something to think about, review what I wanted to say, and then to do it, finish it and publish it. This activity was a daily exercise in being mindful and awareness became a daily habit.
- Thoughts are not to be trusted: It's normal to feel good one day and feel bad the next but showing up to record an audio journal every day balanced out how I perceived my thoughts and how my thoughts affected my actions from day to day. Maybe the practice of showing up and creating, even on days when I felt bad or sad helped me realize that my thoughts are not to be trusted. Now I like to say - My thoughts are not to be trusted. They are like fire. They can be directed to make an amazing meal or they can burn your house down.
- Talk to yourself: I got a lot better at talking to myself. I started asking myself questions and answering them. Later I learned that this is a process called "interrogative self talk".
- Take small imperfect action: Before doing this year long exercise in execution I would think and agonize, and plan about my decisions. This exercise taught me that often the agony and frustration goes away very quickly after I make a choice and take action on it. Now I know this is a real thing! Just listen to this podcast with psychologist Dan Gilbert on Hidden Brain talking about making choices.
- Play and learning about learning: Before doing this project I had a clear line between playing around, learning, and work. But in order to stick to my central goal of recording every day I had to learn to make it fun, give up on expectations when dealing with a deadline, and I had to bring a light attitude of playing and learning to something that I respected as work. Now I know that play is at the core of creativity and success.
- A nuanced understanding of goals: I said a lot of things in these journals. I stated a lot of goals, a bunch of aspirations, and today I would say I am still in alignment with a lot of what I said. But more importantly I noticed that a lot of what I said didn't happen but rather than hide from that fact I kept showing up and in the process of showing up I realized the most important thing I have ever learned. Now I have a bunch of specific words to define my relationship with my goals:
- Intentions: Sparks and dreams
- Visualizations: Feelings and aspirations
- Outcomes: Prototypes and design ideas
- Goals: Targets
- Objectives: Key performance indicators
- Tasks: Next steps
- Take ownership of your year: When does you year start? After about 60 days I realized that I felt like I was nearing the end of February when it was actually September. I realized that by choosing to start this year long project I had chosen my own start to my year. This allowed me to track my progress and internalize my timeline in a more personal way. I imagine this is how an athlete feels about their year. They are more focused on their "season" and being in, out or getting ready for the next season than they are about what time of the general year that it is. My advice to you is START TODAY.
III. The Middle: Learning about learning
Why is the middle last in my review? Because the middle is what I am doing today. The middle is messy but amazing. If I had to say what I learned between starting and finishing this project it would be:
- I learned about learning to learn: This is called "self-directed learning". It is a simple term with incredible meaning. It means "you direct your own learning". Think about the magnitude of that concept! Learning in school, learning at work, learning in a workshop or learning online in a class are all examples of traditional learning. But what happens in between? What happens when you don't have a specific destination? What happens when you have lots of amazing options (like in life and work) but you have to direct and focus your own energy, time, and money on one option to dig deeper. What happens when you have to do this on your own? This is learning, to learn about learning. This is the key to getting unstuck in life and work.
Now I am digging into the middle and organizing the topics, concepts, and themes that I discovered into six major categories to dig deeper and learn about. These 8 categories / skills are:
- UnStuck Mindset:
- Cultivating Belief:
- Telling Your Story:
- Designing Your Year:
- Generating Motivation:
- Taking Small Imperfect Action:
- Developing Habits and Systems:
- Self Advocacy and Sales: