John Stezaker


Every year, I spend time dissecting the year that’s gone. And then, I spend time trying to plan or predict the year to come.

As I’ve grown older, this process has become more fraught. I am both more ambitious and less restrained than before; I have more money to my name, more freedom, whatever authority other people choose to give me for no longer being “a kid,” etc.

At the same time, I feel more circumscribed than before. My relationships, my family, my responsibilities – these are completely voluntary restrictions, but they are restrictions all the same. With any voluntary servitude there is the ever-present worry: “Is this what I’m meant to be doing?”

Not that I’m thinking of leaving my kids, obviously. I love my life. But given the limitations that life requires, my remaining time – and energy – is increasingly short. It is an enormous amount of work just to be able to think in whatever time is left over after work, kids, family, etc. Day to day life is an enormous psychic investment.

There’s a twinge of anxiety when it comes to writing a list like this – when you’re trying to decide which activities are going to receive the remainder of your increasingly-rare mental resources. Am I choosing the right thing? Is this a “high leverage” activity? What’s going to make everything else easier…and what’s simply a blind alley, something that’s going to waste precious time and energy?

All that, I suppose, is just another way of saying – As I get older, I feel like I can handle anything…and it’s harder to decide what I should be handling. Are the people around me fixed, irreducible, permanent? Can I change? Can they? What would that take? What’s simply a bad habit, lovingly acquired over many years, and what’s a permanent fixture of my personality? What should I change, or fight for, and what should I simply accept?

I really don’t know. But at least part of that anxiety comes from the concept of “yearly goals” – a structure that doesn’t serve me particularly well right now.

Instead, I’m going to set long-term priorities on an indeterminate timeline…and focus on concrete, quarterly goals. This will allow me to check in more often, gauge how things are going, and simply change course if necessary. If I have no idea where I’m going, I should probably pull over more often and take stock of where I am.

So. Without further hemming and hawing.


1. Compete in my first Jiu Jitsu tournament.

There’s one at the end of March. Right now I’m focused on just building more time for training into my schedule; I’ve struck a deal for 1-1 lessons during the week on top of my regular classes.

I also want to change up my current schedule in order to allow me to attend the higher-level competitive classes that are at less convenient times.

2. Increase business lead volume by 50%.

Self explanatory. We spent a lot of time building capacity at the end of last year; now I want to build sales. We have a lot of our eggs in the “Facebook Ads” basket, so building another channel from scratch will not only build revenue, but long term stability.

3. Build out the infrastructure for developing a Black Wing live show.


– figure out what I’d need to do that
– build out a “music area” in the office where stuff can stay set up
– schedule one night during the week to dedicate to mastering the skills required/building the set

If I can build the capacity, the work will happen much faster.

4. Manage my diet more effectively.

I’ve been on a diet plan for a long time, but I’ve been “kind of” hitting it – being roughly on point, but fudging the numbers here or there.

I want to really nail this, so that I can advance more quickly. If the goal is to drop body fat and add muscle, I need to have control over my intake and understand how those pieces fit together.

5. Focus on building a “Study Infrastructure.”

There’s a bunch of stuff I want to study – right now, mostly persuasion and social interaction – but my reading is relatively catch-as-catch-can. If I can add more regular reading/study time, that’ll give me a lot more capacity for improvement overall.

Not sure when this is going to happen, but it just needs to get scheduled into the week in a way that allows everything else to happen. Waking up early doesn’t seem to work for me – I’m already low on sleep. So this is a bigger challenge than it might seem.

6. Less emotional reactivity.

Noticing that my emotional ups and downs have been REALLY wild lately. Based on what the kids are doing, or whether the business is going well, or something my wife said, I’ll be ecstatic/depressed for days on end. When it’s intense, I can’t think clearly, and have a lot of trouble assessing my life in any kind of reasonable way (am I really a giant, fat, waste of space? Or am I just feeling grumpy this week?)

Decreasing emotional reactivity is going to make me better at literally everything I do. For me, this is mostly about getting back into meditation. It’s a very hard habit for me to maintain, but it is increasingly important. Time to just buckle down and make it happen.

So, that’s it for now. As I said, I’ll come back to these more often than once a year, so I’m OK setting slightly more amorphous goals. If it doesn’t work, I’ll let you know.

Wishing you the best in your own journeys this year.