Year in Review
In November of 2019 I decided to shake some things up.
Unfortunately, I had fallen into the trap that many people in our society do of setting goals and aspirations due to societal pressures. Because of this, I had accepted “the list” of what society said was what I needed to be accomplishing in order to be a “success.” Once you realize you’ve succumbed to “the list” you begin to realize how many of your goals were placed for you by other people and not actually created by yourself. This is easy to succumb to as we get so focused on the goal itself that we never pause to ask ourselves why we set this goal in the first place. With this newfound perspective I asked myself the following question: If I couldn’t put the accomplishment of this goal on a resume or post it on social media, what projects/goals would I still pursue and find fulfillment out of?
I let go of some goals that I perceived to be important and set out to create a new list of ambitious goals that would challenge me, excite me, and force me to grow. To accomplish this, I started to envision what kind of man I wanted to be in one year. I asked myself what I wanted to be like, what I wanted to have accomplished, and what I wanted to stand for. This required clarity on the values that were driving these goals. I have found that if one of your values isn’t behind one of your goals you likely didn’t consciously choose that goal to begin with. With the help of Drew Dudley’s outstanding book, This is Day One, I selected five personal values of drive, fun, mastery, service, and passion. I then paired these values with a new goal setting system that encompassed all areas of life. (Kudos to Tom Barton and the rest of Barton’s Spartan’s for their influence on this!) With my values, goals, and habits set in place, I got to work.
I’m happy to share that now exactly one year from setting those goals I achieved every goal on that list that I set for myself. Below are the goals with a bit of a breakdown of how I tackled them.
Read 52 Books
As an avid reader and lifelong learner my passion for reading is pretty strong. I didn’t choose 52 books arbitrarily though. I wanted to push outside of my comfort zone and read a book every single week for a year. To achieve this goal, I began a habit of reading a minimum of 15 minutes every single day. The consistent progress and discipline led to great results and I’m finishing this year having read 57 books.
I’m proud to say none of these were audiobooks and out of the 57 that I read I took physical notes on 40 of them. I’m proud of accomplishing this goal and even prouder of the sheer amount of knowledge I was able to gain from these books. Below, in no particular order, are the top five most influential books I read from the year.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris
Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill
Distribute 2,300 Books with RTLT
With my organization, Readers Today Leaders Tomorrow, I set out to distribute 2,300 books to kids in need in the Cedar Valley area. This was a part of our systematic approach to support literacy rates in our community. COVID-19 made this goal challenging and definitely presented a few hurdles to overcome. However, I refused to use the virus as an excuse. As Jocko Willink said, “Good leaders don’t make excuses. Instead, they figure out how to get things done.” Through some innovative approaches and lots of hard work I was able to reach the goal and distribute just over 2,300 books to kids in need.
Max-Out Roth IRA: Save and Invest $5,000
Last fall, I was fortunate enough to attend a series of financial literacy courses that really opened my eyes to the world of money. With this newfound knowledge, I decided to be much more proactive about my personal finance and set a goal to max out my Roth IRA contributions for the year. Through consistent budgeting and work I was able to save and invest $5,000 into my Roth IRA. Don’t get me wrong, I still aggressively saved and invested money into my mutual funds. (God bless Vanguard!) I just wanted to hit that benchmark with my Roth IRA and start to position myself for the future.
I began running in high school to challenge myself. As a high school offensive lineman that grew up chubby, running was something you only did as a punishment. I soon fell in love with running and found myself completing my first marathon my freshman year of college. I followed that up with a second marathon my sophomore year, cutting over 15 minutes off my overall time.
However, I found myself slacking. I was now in a position where I wasn’t pushing myself as hard on the long runs and definitely slacking on the diet. This complacency creeping in didn’t sit well with me because as Benjamin Mays once said, “The tragedy in life is not found in failure but in complacency… it’s not failure, but aiming too low that’s life’s greatest tragedy.”
I then decided to run an ultra-marathon. An ultra-marathon is any race with a distance that exceeds 26.2 miles, in my case that was a 50k. I then dove headfirst into training, adopting more plant-based recipes into my diet and intensifying my training regiment. Most notably, I knew I would need to develop immense mental toughness for this race. To do this I completed not one, but two Goggin’s challenges. For those that are unfamiliar, the Goggin’s challenge is one in which you run four miles, every four hours, for a span of 48 hours. So you are running four miles at 8 PM, Midnight, 4 AM, 8 AM and so on and so forth. It’s a grueling challenge by the time you are on your tenth run and your heading out the door at 4 AM. These were extremely beneficial though and helped me cultivate what Goggin’s refers to as a “calloused mind.” With this new mindset, I was ready to run my ultra.
However, COVID turned the world upside down and my first two races I signed up for getting cancelled with the third going virtual. I now found myself staring at a brick wall with this goal. However as Randy Pausch in The Last Lecture said, “the brick walls aren’t there to stop us, they’re there to show us how bad we want something.” So naturally I created my own 50k, “The Gipple Gut-Check 50k.”
For the 50k I went for a “little jog around the neighborhood” running from my childhood home to the nearby town of Oskaloosa, logging several miles on the trail, and then hoofing it back to my home. The run started with 12 miles of running face first into 23 mph winds. Altogether, the run was challenging yet extremely beautiful and I’m proud to have checked it off my list.
Elected SigEp VP of SLC
Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about my fraternity. With this passion, I decided to create an audacious goal that would push me to create lasting, meaningful change for the organization. The area I chose to focus on was our SigEp Learning Community (SLC). Put simply, the SLC is SigEp’s method of becoming a valued partner in higher education through academic support measures and intentional programming.
Through my role, I set out to create the VP of SLC position and get it on our executive board. In the process of accomplishing that goal, I developed our own SigEp classroom and a resident intern position. Through collaborative efforts and lots of hard work we developed a string of programming including academic strategies course for members that significantly enhanced the fraternity experience.
Start Podcast and Produce 25 Episodes
I felt a strong need to create something and as an avid podcast connoisseur I decided to try my hand at podcasting. My first podcast I created with my good friend Avery Johnson was “Onward Thinking.” We had a ton of fun with this project and produced ten episodes of varying topics. I then turned my attention to my second podcast, “Our Very Own Balanced Men.” On this podcast I host prominent SigEp alumni from around the country. This podcast has been ridiculously fun and I have loved building a community for it and hearing the stories from my guests. Currently, I am at episode #19 and have already been honored to host some of SigEp’s best and brightest. Altogether, I managed to crank out 29 episodes between the two podcasts to reach my goal. Through this entire process I have developed several skills and have grown immensely from it. Looking back at some early episodes I can't help but cringe. After all though, as LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman says, “If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.”
Raise $500 Running
For a while now, I've had a strong desire to use running as a force for good. This fall I finally got a chance to do that and raised money by running my second Goggin’s challenge. My original goal was to raise $500 and by
the completion of the challenge I had surpassed that and raised $800. I couldn’t decide which cause for the money to support so I decided to split the money between two causes that are very near and dear to me. I decided on Readers Today Leaders Tomorrow and Northeast Iowa Food Bank. The $400 to RTLT will be able to purchase and provide 400 new books to kids in need and the $400 will help the food bank provide up to 1,200 meals to those facing food insecurity. I was amazed at how much impact we could create in our community by just raising $800. In addition, using running for a good cause turned out to be even more rewarding than I had ever imagined.
Write Book Manuscript
Last but not least, the goal I am most proud of; completing the manuscript for my book. I began the process of my book at the beginning of June and in the months that followed went through the cycle of research, interviews, and writing. Just yesterday, I submitted my 30,000 word manuscript to my publisher, New Degree Press. With the manuscript submitted I am still on pace to publish in April of 2021. If interested in getting a copy yourself you can fill out a pre-order interest form HERE.
The process has required lots of time and effort but every step has been extremely fulfilling. The working title of my book is The Impact Manifesto: How Younger Generations Subvert Ideas of Leadership. I look forward to the book coming out in the spring and getting it out to those that have ordered a copy. As for now, I am excited to dive into the publishing process!
I want to make it clear that this article is not to serve as a pat on the back to myself. Instead, I had initially written this as accountability to several mentors that had helped me make a pivot last November. When making these decisions and charting a new path forward with new goals I asked a mentor how I would know I made a good decision. He said, “You’ll just know at some point in the future.” As I conclude my reflection now a year out and after conquering all the goals I set for myself, I can say with the utmost confidence that I made the right decision. This decision then led to an amazing year of creation, service, and growth.
Now onto the next year of goals!