My Top 16 of 2016

I wasn’t going to post a list this year because I think boiling a year down to a list is tough, but it’s the last day of the year and I was just inspired by seeing some other friends post their lists.

Here it is, the now 3rd annual My Top of The Year things I thought were great. And of course, this isn’t totally comprehensive because every day is awesome (cue the Lego Movie Song). Here it goes in no particular order:

Weekly Gratefulness Journaling – every week I have a recurring to-do item in my to-do app (todoist) that prompts me to write down anything that pops into my head from the past week about what I am grateful for, or special moments, etc.. I’ve been doing for more than this year but this is the first full year I have it all captured where I can go back and look. Thanks to three to five quick minutes a week I can now go back and see so many small things that may have been forgotten or the small amazing parts of bigger things (like the first time Z said ‘it hit me in the nuts’ or ‘thingy-a-ma-jiggy’ to when a friend launched his online course to the moment an idea popped in my head that later became a gift for someone). I hope to find more quick, small things to add (or delete) from my day/week that bring exponential positive impact. (toying with the idea of sticking to the 5-minute journal practice for 2017 as I did it some in 2016 and it was great)

Family & Friends – there are so many amazing things I’d put about my family it would be more than I could ever write. The same is true for my friends. I couldn’t possibly capture everything. In looking back and thinking about the year though I couldn’t help but think of some of the bigger moments with the family that were just as special as the small ones everyday like prepping for N’s birthday, Z & Zo skiing for the first time, waking up on New Years in a hotel overlooking the parade, taking the kids on the paddleboard, dinner dates, Zo’s book, Christmas Orchestra, Poconos Weekend, facetiming with each other from around the world, and just about everything else.

Burning Man – once again BM makes the list. This year was SO different than my first and while both years were great – this one was exceptional in so many ways. Some of them even being how bad certain parts were. You learn a lot about yourself in tough situations and BM can be one of the toughest. At the same time, it’s one of the greatest places on earth with the best people ever and this year was even truer to that statement – especially the greatest people aspect. You guys rock! Getting a chance to experience it with one of my best friends – Lenzini – was also amazing (Cheers to Rosie’s Diner)! There was also an incredibly special moment on the man burn night where Lenzini and I were talking and I realized that since he and I have been friends since Kindergarten that maybe, just maybe Z and Zo are making friends now that they’ll have 30+ years from now.

Meditating – at the end of 2015 I set a goal to start a mindfulness practice and meditating. I’ve been wanting to try it for a while and just never got around to it. Thankfully, 2016 I really jumped in and ended up meditating on average 6.5 days a week (thank you to my data tracker where I mark off which days I did certain things.) I also was fortunate enough to attend a silent mindfulness meditation retreat at the Shambhala Center in Colorado and found it an amazing way to enhance my understanding. I can’t say very tangibly what it’s ‘done’ for me like I know X or Y, but it’s been profound on so many levels I intend to continue and have some great ideas on how to use this base to now extend into focusing my practice on specific areas like more mindfully eating.

Work – this year was one of my best and most fulfilling years of working since I graduated college. It was also one of the hardest. I think the two often go hand in hand. In the last third of the year I also moved into a new role that seems to be more aligned with my values and passion than any I’ve ever had. I started the year working with amazing people, and finished the year getting to work with even more amazing people. 2017 is going to rock!

TED Summit – Getting to spend a week in the woods, with incredibly smart people seems like it would be perfect. Getting a chance to do it in Banff, with super incredibly smart people (not including myself in that bucket) made it even better. Being a part of shaping the future of TED was great, doing it while rock climbing (I didn’t realize how much I miss that) and other great adventures with friends from the TED/TEDx Community over the years was even better.

Community – felt like I had the chance to get back to doing some more stuff ‘in the Community’ this year. Whether it was the random things like Moorestown Day and a Santa Mailbox or the more specific like helping TEDxPhiladelphia get started again I really enjoyed trying to find ways to connect to more local, physical communities vs. the online world.

ChinaI had to go to I was lucky enough to get to go to China a couple times for work in the last 14 months. Thanks to that not only did I get the chance to do some amazing work stuff in China, I also got the chance to stop by Shanghai Disney Land and tour the Great Wall of China. I’m a huge Disney lover so getting the chance to visit a brand new park was awesome. I was also able to facetime with the kids while I met Mickey and rode the Buzz Lightyear ride which made it fun to feel ‘connected’ to them while I was homesick thousands of miles away. The Great Wall of China was breathtaking. While standing on the wall it also flashed in my head that visiting this place has been on my life goals list since 2002. It made me even more grateful to have a job and work for a Company where I get to work across the world, a great balance to the tough realities of traveling a lot in 2016.

Neighbors – maybe this also fits under Community, but I called it out because having amazing neighbors continues to make our neighborhood great. I’m sure it will continue to get even better too. Having friends online or who you see 2X a year is great and I’m fortunate to have many of those types too. Having friends that you can look across your driveway to or walk around the cul-de-sac to or down the block (or drive 3 miles across town to) make everyday life even better. Plus, at this point I think we’ve found a ridiculously fun new Black Friday night tradition at a local karaoke place.

Piano – getting a piano in the house was a super addition in 2016. The kids now take piano lessons and I learned how to play a couple Christmas songs from YouTube. I think art education in kids is critical and I love seeing them at the piano. Also, we took a video of me playing two Christmas carols on the piano with the kids singing them and that pretty much is like the greatest video I can ever think of.

Travel – I couldn’t talk about 2016 without talking about traveling. At the end of 2015 I said how happy I was to get back to global travel yet I hoped some of it slowed down. Well, thanks to some happenings at work, it only sped up – and to more places. While it was very tough in some ways, it was amazing in others. I learned about so many places and experienced so many things I just wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I also tried to talk to the kids about some of it and where I was going before I would leave for a trip so hopefully they will be influenced to travel when they are older as well. Favorite places for the year: Russia, China, Singapore, Prague, London, Banff.

Steak Club – well, this is sort of a secret dinner club so I can’t really say too much (ha, ha, ha). But, let’s just say that getting together every couple months with a great group of people for a dinner and conversation while integrating aspects of the historical Beef & Liberty Society of Great Britain can be amazing. Along with that we also added to it the Ratz Restaurant sing-along this year. Breaking bread.

The Election – this is an interesting one. I’m putting this on the list not at all because of a leaning towards any specific political side or agenda whatsoever or any type of statement about who won/who didn’t. I’m adding it to the list because I think it’s been – and will continue to be – an incredibly great learning opportunity. I learned so much more about myself and am learning so much more about the world and the people in it by seeing how everyone is handling the election and the results. I have forgotten just about everything about every Presidential election so far in my life, I know this one will impact me much differently. No matter what side anyone is on, I hope it also galvanizes more people to do more for what they believe in.

Education – when I first graduated undergrad I kept continuing my education in many ways and also worked to obtain professional certifications in areas in which I was working. It’s been a while since I looked at any types of certifications, but am always taking online classes in something just to keep learning. So, this year I figured I’d go for a couple different certifications to see what it was like and it was a great way to get back to having a specific educational goal and the testing of skills through certification exams and processes. Learning something for a particular purpose (like being able to play Christmas carols on the piano or pass a certification exam) was a nice different approach vs. just digesting the info (which is great too though.)

Side Projects – I get to work with amazing people both at work, and outside of work. I feel like side projects are always an important part of my life and have ranged from small things to big. This year some especially big side projects took off (like getting some things done around the house and an upcoming announcement which I just received final proofs of on Dec. 28th so technically it counts towards this year). There were also a ton of smaller and medium sized things. I think you can tell a lot about people by their side projects. I wanted to call out side projects this time because of how lucky I am to get to work with different people on them. This year Steve P. and Catherine were incredible in how much they helped shape my thinking, how much I learned from them, and how much we got done.

Everything – I wish it was 2099 so I could write 99 things or maybe I should just do 2,016 things because there are so many GREAT things that happen every week, every day, every month that it’s impossible to just list 16. Yes, there are plenty of things that didn’t go well this year (my weight in last two months of the year, not writing enough, not taking enough time to teach Z to ride w/o training wheels, and more) and analyzing those are important to learn from and ensure it doesn’t continue. But, focusing on the positive, looking for the good, remembering how unbelievably good we have it in life and finding something to be grateful for in every situation means that no matter what happened in 2016 or what’s going to happen in any future year it will all be amazing. Life is amazing. I’m the luckiest guy in the world to get to do it with my family and friends.

Cheers to 2016, let’s make 2017 even more amazing!
Matt

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Post-It Wars

I’m loving the Post-It war going on in NYC this month (twitter #canalnotes).  Having put up Post-It Art in many hotel rooms and offices I’ve been working in  (hey, it passes the time during business travel), I’m a huge fan when more people get involved.

Thought I would pass along this little file I’ve been building on how to easily map out a Post-It Art project – enjoy the Post-It Artwork Instructions (excel file).

Matt Kane

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Adding In A Meditation Practice

Today marks the 76th day in a row that I’ve meditated since deciding to start shortly after the new year.  What’s most interesting to me about that fact is that in order for that to be true, that means that I’ve been able to find at least 15 minutes a day to practice.

I’ve often used the excuse “I don’t have enough time” for whatever it was that I was hoping to accomplish and/or complained about trying to find time for something each and every day. I’ve again proved to myself that those excuses were all just crap.  Of course, I ‘knew’ that before – but having something as tangible as seeing the 76 day streak is incredibly motivating and energizing.

Mechanically, the Headspace app has been the method that I’ve been utilizing and what started at 15 minutes continues to expand and refine. I don’t try to point at specific things to say ‘oh, I see this is a result of doing it’ but I know it’s made a difference.

I think back to the 2 days where I ‘forgot’ and got out of bed at 11:30pm to ensure I did it that day, I think back to moments across the previous two years when starting was ‘on my list’ and I never got around to it.  I now see, know, feel and am again reminded that it was always possible and can’t wait to harness that to add even more amazing routines and practices to my life.

So what will you do with your 15 minutes?

Matt

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The Personal Development Commute

Activities like reading books and learning new skills are usually some of the first things to fall off someone’s to-do list. Unfortunately, they are also the very things that can change our lives. In relation to that, I often hear and have previously given the excuse of ‘I don’t have enough time.’ The trick then is finding some time that you’re already spending and making it more productive and efficient.

For instance, when I do go into our office, I have a long commute in the car. Well, luckily years ago I decided that I would use this, as Tony Robbins calls it, NET (No Extra Time) to do something productive.

Through books on tape, CD and now iPhone I have ‘read’ hundreds of personal development and other books while I’m driving to work. I’ve learned Portuguese and refreshed my German language skills while driving the NJ Turnpike. I’ve picked up skills on how to do DIY projects around the house while driving to the shore. The possibilities are endless.

The newer world of podcasts has opened up an entire new content universe of learning where I get to spend my commute listening to knowledge that is unparalleled. Podcasts have been the biggest change in my personal development commute in the last ten years. Check them out.

Next time you think to yourself, I don’t have time to learn X,Y,Z pull over your car, open some video on youtube and listen to it through your car as you travel.

Matt

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Letting the Big Picture Stop You

Last week, on two separate occasions and for two different reasons, I was asked to thoroughly explain how the tasks different people were being asked to do were connected to a bigger picture or master plan. While on many occasions this makes total sense, I believe in these two situations the people were really just using this as a way to escape from actually doing the work.

Sometimes you just have to start the task or project and get work done.

Finding new and more creative ways to try and stop yourself from getting work done, by making it seem like you’re just trying to be strategic, is only hurting your progress. In certain cases, you just have to believe that the person asking for the work understands the higher purpose, sometimes you just have to remember what was talked about for the higher purpose at the beginning of the journey, and sometimes you have to just call bulls&^t on yourself and realize if it’s a hiding tactic.

Climbing the tree and ensuring you know you’re headed in the right direction is important, but being on the ground and chopping through the woods efficiently and effectively is also important.  Know which role you play on the team and when you just want a break from chopping, that’s when the real magic happens if you can push through.

-Matt

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The Power of the 3rd Party

A surefire method I know I can break myself out of a productivity rut is to find some way to get third party pressure or reinforcement. Having someone or something help prod me along or complete a portion of the work is sometimes exactly what’s needed.

Some of the examples of third party pressure or reinforcement I’ve used include public deadlines, working directly with someone else, hiring someone else to work with me on a project, working in a more open environment where people see what I’m working on, and telling people I really respect about what I’m doing. I love this example too of hiring someone to really watch how the person was working.

Using a third party has also been incredibly impactful in areas where I need to get something done that might not be exactly what I love doing or am best at. I’ve used sites like upwork and fiverr to find people who love doing the part of the work I might not. Sure, I do plenty of things that I’d love to smarter source, but having the knowledge of how to and following through on getting at least some things done in alternate ways really helps maximize my productivity.

When I set out to work on something I try to think through how it can most successfully get done.  Many times that involves finding ways to incorporate various forms of third party help. What’s the thing you’re working on right now that could use the help of someone else?

-Matt

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Being Fulfilled One Task At A Time

Over the last decade I have been a crew member at Tony Robbins events around the US volunteering in various positions and helping out with whatever was needed. One of the most favorite parts of what I get to do as crew is be a member of the fire team that is in charge of logistically creating the fire walk experience for participants.

Creating the physical part of a fire walk involves an enormous amount of hard labor that takes place over two days outside in whatever weather is happening at the moment.  I have put together wheelbarrows in the snow, carried water soaked mats of grass in the rain, and swept parking lots for hours in the sun.

No matter where or when I’ve been a part of fire team over the last decade, I’ve never heard anyone complain or criticize about the amount of work. In fact, there are always more people wanting to be on the team to do that work than there are spots available.

During one particularly great reflection session with the team after we were done cleaning up we started to uncover why. Why are people so fulfilled, so happy, and so energized by whatever is being asked of them?

Yes, there is a sense of mission that happens being a part of such a great overall experience for thousands of participants, but it’s much simpler than that. People feel immersed and elated in their work because they’re singularly focused, and not multi-tasking.

When you’re putting together a wheelbarrow, that’s all you’re thinking about in that moment.  Later, when you’re unrolling mats of grass to form a part of a fire walk line, you’re immersed in that grass on that lane. When you’re in charge of ensuring there’s no debris that can get on someone’s foot in a parking lot, you’re sweeping and not worried about doing anything else.  Being single focused and accomplishing that thing gives you a sense of joy. Going on and only focusing on the next one allows you to become happily lost in the sensation of being focused.

Single-tasking is not only more efficient, more effective and more productive, it’s also more fun and fulfilling.

-Matt

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