The 2016 Round-Up: Biggest Takeaways From A Year of Challenges

It’s that time of the year again!

It’s the end of the year, and that means it’s time to step back and reflect back on 2016’s Challenge List. This is where I take a step back to review the list and go over what went awesome, what didn’t go so great, and what was learned as a result.

So let’s take a look at total amount of challenges completed for 2016:

18/25

In total, I managed to complete 72% of all challenges on my list. Some of the more notable tasks included:

  • Running a Spartan Race
  • Publishing an Android App
  • Tripling my distance record for swimming
  • Taking a trip out of the country
  • Building and shooting an arrow from scratch
  • and many more

While this was a year for new experiences, it also had one of the most pivotal moments that changed how I view productivity. With many successes came many learning experiences. With these learning experiences I plan on taking on 2017 with these ideas in mind:

Better to Be SMART Instead of Busy

to-busy_thumb

If I had to pinpoint my biggest mistake for 2016 it would have to be doing my 20 Things A Month experiment. You see, back in early February I had an idea that would push me to get things done. In order to motivate me to focus on my yearly challenges, I would select several tasks each month and then draw them up on a list of 20 things to complete at the end of the month.

My initial thought was that if  I broke it down like this I can chip at each tasks little by little and complete almost all of it by the end of the year.

Instead, I ended up finding myself pulling out my hair each day constantly doing work but barely making any significant progress towards my Challenge List goals.

It wasn’t until I listened to a podcast interview of Smarter, Faster Better‘s author Charles Durhigg that I realized what I was doing.

I crafted my To-Do lists to make me busy, not productive. Sure I would be spending 15 hours a day, working my brain and body to mush, but all of that was pointless because I was tackling small, insignificant tasks on my list in attempt to cross more items off.

I was experiencing, what is known as a False Authentic Pride, where you working towards  feelings of the little dopamine effects you get from doing small accomplishments  instead of working towards the much grander feeling of accomplishing something worthwhile.

Now I’ll be tackling on my tasks with SMART Goals in order to handle the bigger, more difficult tasks on my list and get much more done.

After learning this it led to another way I need to tackle my goals

Work Towards The Long-Term Goals

As Steve Kamb said in his book, Level Up Your Life:
Think of each big quest on your list as a series of tiny, incremental quests. If we can create 10 steps to a mastery of a skill, then we can focus our energy on simply putting one foot in front of the other and the process will take of itself
After hearing reading this it sparked something in my mind: There are very different feelings between how I feel accomplishing each challenge.

Each challenge I’ve completed thus far has been no stroll in the park. If I wasn’t pushing myself to go beyond my physical and mental limits, I was pushing myself to do things that went beyond my comfortable zone.

The problem is, I found that the challenges that ended up going towards my overall goals(i.e. My Impossible List) were far more satisfying than those I wanted to do because I thought it would be “fun” or “look cool”.

This caused my focus to shift towards my long-term goals instead of short-term, spontaneous goals. As a result, I didn’t really work towards some of these items as hard as others. My energy and focus went towards my long term goals, and each one I crossed off ended up giving me a more deserved feeling of accomplishment as well as put me that much closer to being who I want to be.

With that being said, there is one last thing I will be doing for 2017

Do A Lot in A Little, Not A Little in A Lot

Probably the biggest thing I’ve been debating about these last two years has been the number of items I’ve used on my list. I’ve done 25 challenges for 2 years now and each year I only get close to finishing 20 of them. Each item I work on typically takes a long time and a lot of focus to complete, so trying to do an average of over 2 per month starts to look less realistic.

If I really want to buckle down and finish off my goals I need to shorten my list so I can give it my all. But than that begs the question, how many challenges do I do? 20 challenges, 15 challenges, 10 challenges?

Well… That’s still up to debate. Right now I have quite a few items already sorted out for 2017’s list.

The idea I’m leaning on most is to cap the limit on 20  items and attempt to do 5 extra if I finish my list with a lot of time to spare. There would be something more definitive in my post for 2017’s Challenge List.

All and all though, I have to say that this year proved to be a great year for experimentation and learning. I am looking forward to this upcoming year and cannot wait to see what’s to come.

For all of you out there, I hope you had a great 2016, and shoot hard for an even better 2017. Train hard, and I’ll see you next year!
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2016: Continuing the List

One year ago I made a list of 25 things I told myself I had to complete by the end of 2015. I called this list “The Challenge List“, in which I would took up 25 challenges to help improve myself throughout the year. I figured by instead of referring to them as goals I would like to get done, they would instead be thought of as challenges I must complete. By the end of it all I ended up accomplishing a large chunk of my challenges and pushed myself towards boundaries I never thought possible.

The list ended up becoming so beneficial towards self-improvement that I decided to do it again for 2016. This year I gave myself 25 new things I am challenging myself to complete by the end of the year. Like last year, I am not going to think of these as 25 things I want to complete this year, but 25 things I must complete.

2016 Challenges

Progress: 18/25

  1. Go to an Escape Room
  2. Visit a China Town ACCOMPLISHED(8.27.2016)
  3. Swim a full mile(1650 Yards)ACCOMPLISHED(7.26.2016)
  4. Do not say “I” for an entire day ACCOMPLISHED(4.23.2016)
  5. Finish a Spartan Race ACCOMPLISHED(6.25.2016)
  6. Go to the Wisconsin Strawberry festival ACCOMPLISHED(6.26.2016)
  7. Get a Full-Body Wax ACCOMPLISHED(11.11.2016)
  8. Rock climb Taylor Falls, Minnesota ACCOMPLISHED(9.10.16)
  9. Do 10 Footbag kicks
  10. Publish a mobile app ACCOMPLISHED(7.29.2016)
  11. Make a flash drive
  12. Road Trip to Canada ACCOMPLISHED(10.22.2016)
  13. Winter Cabin Trip Up North ACCOMPLISHED(12.11.2016)
  14. Hike up Timms Hill, WisconsinACCOMPLISHED(6.29.2016)
  15. Visit the Minnesota Eagle Reserve ACCOMPLISHED(7.1.2016)
  16. Create a Video Game ACCOMPLISHED(8.20.2016)
  17. Build an Arcade Machine
  18. Achieve Level 100 on Habitica ACCOMPLISHED(10.17.2016)
  19. Get accepted into Advanced level Parkour classes
  20. Take a Yoga Class ACCOMPLISHED(3.25.2016)
  21. Run a 5-minute Mile
  22. Go SnowBoarding ACCOMPLISHED(1.9.2016)
  23. Start a Fire with a Fire Bow
  24. Craft and Shoot my own Arrows ACCOMPLISHED(8.7.2016)
  25. Win a T-Shirt in Marines Pull-Up Challenge(25 Pull ups) MAX REP: 18, (9.1.2016)

The 2015 Year in Review

The year of 2015 ends which means it’s time to take a look back at everything accomplished this past year. With the end of the year I have can finally mark off three more items off my list such as Meditating twice a week, Practicing Martial Arts, and Complimenting a different person every day. With those three items completed my total number of challenges finishes off with 16 completed out of 25 challenges. For a complete update on the list and my analysis on each of them you can look here.

Now with those items crossed off the list, let’s take a look back at what didn’t work, why it didn’t get completed, and how I can take that information to help with my goals for 2016.

One of the biggest reason for some of these items not being accomplished is a change of interest. To put it straight, I didn’t study for my A+ certification nor did I work towards my gold medal for my President’s Challenge because I no longer saw it beneficial towards my life’s goals. I felt my time would have been better spent if I didn’t focus on these items rather spend time developing skills for my long term goals. By doing so, I ended up exceeding my ambitions that started these goals and became a much more accomplished individual in the end.

Some other items were not accomplished simply because I didn’t have the funds to do them. Some of these items, such as going to a shooting range and going to a Parkour jam, would’ve been financially draining. At the time, I did secure funds to complete some of these challenge items, but did not manage to have sufficient funds to complete the some of the more expensive items.

As for the rest of the uncompleted items on my 2015 list. I would like to say that I had a justified reason for not completing them, but I can’t. I felt like I overshot my list and greatly underestimated my ability to complete one of these items while juggling every day chores and the other 24 items on the list. A good chunk of these items I was able to accomplish because there was always some sort of deadline to complete them by. The rest of them did not have such a dead line and felt like I had all the time in the world to finish them. When there wasn’t any sort of deadline for these items I couldn’t find the ability to focus all my efforts to complete them.

So, what does that say for my goals for 2016? Well, I feel like to best accomplish my tasks I need to organize a plan that allows me to spend 100% of my effort towards completing them. I think the best way to accomplish that is to schedule a few days out of the month to really sit down and focus on completing my goals. Finishing my goals would be best accomplished if I take the time to sit down and focus solely on completing one project at a time. By doing so, the project will not only get completed faster, but I will also be able to accomplish it to my best ability.

In the end I felt like I had accomplished a lot during the year of 2015. I managed to go through 4 jobs, ran my first marathon, got my driver’s license, became Lifeguard certified, and placed second in state in the Cyber Defense Collegiate Competition . I felt like none of this could have been possible without the endless support of my family, friends, and colleagues to push myself to go beyond expectations. I also feel that this blog and my readers became a driving influence to keep me going.

So I ask you, my readers, what are you proud to have achieved in 2015 and what are your goals for 2016?

Monthly Progress Report: Midyear Resolution’s

There is a lot more to finish off on the list but I feel like I had a productive year so far. In one weekend alone I got my driver’s license, became president of my Computer Science Club, and ran a marathon.

So far I have completed 4 out of 25 items on my 2015 goals list. I also have crossed off a bucket list item this year as well! A lot of these goals will take a lot of time to complete. I’m expecting to knock a bulk of them out before November.

I have hit some major life goals so far. The first is getting a new job. I had no doubts I can secure a better job, but I never put in the effort to do so. As a result, I was seeing a lot of my fellow co-workers move onto big and better positions. I didn’t want to be that guy who complained about the situation but put in the most minimal effort to change it. So I actively looked for a job. I went through many interviews, applying to many positions, and finally got an awesome job with amazing benefits. This drove my confidence to keep pursuing other opportunities. Just last month I had spoke with a representative of an internship program and I will likely beginning a new job in January. If I get it, I’ll have my first ever dream job.

Second life goal reached was was getting my license. I had failed my driver’s test a total of 4 times. The last time was enough to just give up on my license for a long time. However, I realize I can not just go through life without being able to drive. I have denied a lot of great job opportunities and had to put ambitions on hold simply because of transportation. I figured enough is enough and paid for some driving lessons. In just a few short weeks I finally passed the test.

Within that same weekend I ran my first ever marathon. I trained hard for it, and after 18 weeks of blood, sweat, and tears, I did it. It was an amazing experience. I wrote a more detailed report on my experience in one of my blog entry’s.

My final goal for the year was hunting for a medallion. Every year my town hosts a medallion hunt. The medallion is hidden someone in the city and the goal is to decipher the clues to locate the medallion. My brother and I attempted it as a kid, but failed due to our lack of knowledge of the city. This year I gave it my all to search for that medallion. While I didn’t find it in the end, I tried my best, and I feel that’s what counts.

So, just to recap on my Challenge List Accomplishments:

2 Get my driver’s license

5 Run the Minneapolis Marathon

7 Actively Participate in a Medallion Hunt

22 Get a new job

I am still actively working on these goals. By the end of December, expect to see the a lot more things crossed off.

Goal 2 Completed: Got my driver’s license

Hello everyone! It has been a while since I last posted. I have been super busy trying to finish my goals for 2015. Today marks another goal accomplished. I finally got my driver’s license!

It has been a long while coming. I had my fair share of failures from previous tests and it resulted in me having to take 6 hours of Behind The Wheel for me to take the test. The biggest issue with that was that I did not have the funds to pay for Behind the Wheel. Fortunately enough for me, the new job I got in March helped me pay for a lot of necessities to work towards my goals.

Now, after 5 years of waiting, and 6 hours of behind the wheel finished, I passed my Driver’s test with flying colors!

Challenge List

2 Get my driver’s license ACCOMPLISHED!

Goal 22 Completed: Got a new Job!

Last February I was interviewed for a job at a different company. There was some miscommunication that went on, and I thought I got the job. I sent my 2-weeks noticed in to my previous job. I went in on the day I thought I started, only to find out that I was not offered a position. They had informed me that they were still in the selection process, and there were some issues with my paper work. In short, I was unemployed.

Now, 1 month, and many papers later, I was offered the job. I started last Wednesday and I couldn’t be more happier. This job fulfills nearly everything I’m looking for in my field-related career.

Challenge List:

22 Get a new job ACCOMPLISHED!

Monthly Progress Report: January

Well, everyone, a month has come and gone for 2015. This year has already showed signs that big change will be coming. For this reason, I had decided that I’ll be doing a monthly progress report at the end of each month.

January may not have had been a month where I accomplished any of my Challenge List’s items, but I feel like it was a month of progress Since the list is rather long I am only planning on giving a report of the major progressions for my list. To see the entire Challenge list, please click here.

Compliment a different person every day

31 days down 31 different people complimented. The goal of this challenge is to get me out of my comfort zone so I have less issues talking to strangers. Everyone enjoys a good compliment, so I figured this would be a good way for me to get over my anxiety while also making others feel better.

Meditate Twice a week

Another goal I have been able to keep. I try to at least dedicate 10 minutes a day, 2 days a week to meditation. It’s been working, but my schedule has been making it harder.

Run a Marathon

My marathon training begun Sunday, January 25th. I researched extensively on what sort of training program to do and settled on doing the “Hanson’s Method”. I plan on blogging my marathon training and the Hanson’s Method.

Achieve a gold medal in the president’s challenge

I started this list when I had a bronze medal. Less than a week ago I was able to earn as silver medal. I am still actively working my way towards the gold. I have less than 70k points left to go

Practice Martial Arts Twice a week

This was by far the most difficult goal I have had this month. It’s not so much that I don’t have time for it, but I feel that I don’t have enough interest to do it. I use to be a lot more active in martial arts back when I took lessons, but had since lost the discipline. I am trying to make sure I keep a disciplined training so I can still improve at it. I feel like what I really need to boost my interest is going back to my martial arts classes. When I took lessons I felt like I had a direction on how train. I feel by having that direction come up again I can motivate myself to train more.


Which brings me to my next point. A few weeks ago I watched a video on Tony Robbinson’s ideas on how to keep a resolution. He talked a lot about how we can only achieve our resolutions if we have enough reason to do them. This led me to re-examining my list’s items and ask myself “Why do I want to achieve this?”. I was able to find a valid reason for all but 1 of these items, so I unofficially took it off my list.

I still want to do the item on my list, but it’s not something I’ll be heavily focused on. Instead I want to focus on improving myself for a sport I’m passionate about, Parkour. In the Parkour community there is a “Challenge” that some practitioners take on in some point in their training called “365 days of Parkour”. This is where for 10 minutes a day, for 365 days, you have to do Parkour. I had attempted this challenge before, but for various reasons I chose to stop.

Now I feel like I am ready to adopt this challenge, or rather, a “lighter version” of the challenge. My previous challenge had me doing Parkour a minimum of 30 minutes a day, this year I am moving it down 10 minutes. I am also going to try to shoot videos of my progress as much as I can. One of the main issues I had with doing the 365 days was training, than spending the time to document it into plain text. I want to cut the fat by doing visual documentation. Lastly, I want to try to finish this as end of the year challenge. 31 days have already past on the calendar, and there are several days this year I know will prevent me from doing Parkour. Due to this, I am cutting it back to 300 days of Parkour. This way if I do need to focus myself away from Parkour, for whatever reason, I have a limited number of days I can do so.

If the 300 days of Parkour does go well enough I may move up to the actual 365 day challenge another year. Here’s to a new month, another 28 days to improve!