Friday, March 4, 2016


Well, the year is 17.5% over. For some of us, it may be more than that, if we happen to die before next January rolls around. How have you been doing? Can you quantify any progress you've made? Don't forget Peter Drucker's adage that "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it." People don't improve themselves like they could because they aren't intentionally strategizing their life, nor intensively measuring their progress over time. Heed the words of Gandhi, "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." Spend 5 minutes each morning and 50 minutes every month reviewing and strategizing your life moves, and watch how your life transforms.

The counter-question to the above is, have you been enjoying the ride? I'm happiest whenever I'm throwing myself into a new project and climbing a nice, steep learning curve. What makes you happy? Whatever it is, make that a bigger part of your life, and make sure to be thankful for it. I've been remiss on being thankful for the blessings I've been given, and am trying to make gratitude my newest habit. What three things are you thankful for right now? I'm thankful for an afternoon off, nice weather, and a sweet wife.

My initial impression of the year is that I'm taking really good advantage of my opportunities to learn medicine, primarily via the avenue of "Image Review" mini-lectures at the beginning of noon conferences. I've been doing one 10-15 minute lecture per week for the last five weeks, focusing on various ultrasound topics in my attempt to take Tai Lopez's advice to "Spend 10 minutes every day giving a lecture to 10 people, and your brainpower will skyrocket." Though I'm only doing it every week, my brainpower has still gotten a nice little boost. 

I'm also enjoying doing the Crossfit Open, which started last week, and continuing to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Another thing I'm getting into is meditation, which was not on my list of original goals for the year but which I added because I kept hearing about all its benefits. I'm six into ten free sessions on the app Headspace, and have gotten into a schedule of 2-3 10 minute sessions per week. Check it out-- you won't regret the small time investment. I also haven't checked Facebook for the past two weeks. Coincidence?

Below is a color-coded list of how I've been doing on my goals for 2016. I plan to keep updating it as the year goes on.

new goals I've made since December
goals I've worked on since December
goals I'm starting to work on in March
goals I'm no longer pursuing this year

-Relational: Continue to make monthly goals with Mindy, make it a habit to ask better questions of friends and acquaintances, visit far-off friends, talk to strangers at every opportunity, monthly microadventures, date night every other week, road trip out West in July

-Public speaking: Record myself speaking 21 times, take advantage of opportunities to speak

-Musical: Start playing guitar again, learn 21 new songs

-Spiritual: Do yoga, fasting, Bible meditation, and family prayer on a weekly basis; meditation

-Intellectual: Read 21 works of mythology, classical literature, philosophy, poetry, or biography on a weekly basis, continue to blog at least monthly

-Medicine: Go through study folder on a weekly basis, keep trying to read the equivalent of 21 journals per month, answer practice questions on a weekly basis; teach myself ultrasound, do lots of certain procedures

-Medical missions: Go on a 3-4 month medical mission trip to a hospital in a Spanish French speaking country (Togo), do lots of OB, and build relationships with the staff there

-Spanish Linguistic: Go back over Spanish grammar before my trip, start using two more verb tenses, expand my vocabulary every day while in Latin America, learn French

-Psychological: Start logging my dreams in an Evernote document, play the Situational Awareness Game on a weekly basis, list three things I'm thankful for each day

-Culinary: Learn new cooking skills by going to classes at Williams-Sonoma, smoke meat every month (started in November), improve my table manners

-Physical: Log all my workouts, go for walks on off-days, do the Crossfit Open, get my jiujitsu blue belt, do a set of 20 squats at least once per day

-Efficiency: Time-track 21 times this year, consistently get up before 7:30 AM on weekends, delete facebook app and check it at most weekly, make a time budget

The areas I haven't made any major progress in are Musical, Intellectual, Linguistic, or Psychological. These are particularly areas in which I haven't yet had a clear, concrete goal to pursue. For instance, I'm not signed up to play music for a talent show, I'm not involved in any book clubs and am busy learning medical stuff, I'm five months away from having to speak French, and logging my dreams first thing in the morning is not as motivating to me at 6AM as hitting the snooze button for another 10 minutes in my warm bed. This goes to show that the kind of people I surround myself with have a profound impact on my self-improvement. For example, if I was to find someone who was really interested in time-tracking and situational awareness, we could make some joint goals in those areas, and those areas would dramatically improve for both of us. Always be on the lookout for people with whom you share an abundance, growth mindset.

As only four months now remain in my residency, I plan to continue to prioritize medicine in the above lists. In addition, I'll continue to make my relational, physical, and psychological goals major priorities. Not all life goals are equal. Proper prioritization is the key element of any good strategy.

If you are reading this as a fresh post and have been following my blog, you are now three months closer to death than when you read my last post. Memento mori. Memento vivere.


  1. Interesting that you have picked up a lot of new goals! What drove the "improve table manners" addition?

    Why do you not have any financial goals?

  2. Good questions. Mindy has made some not-so-subtle comments about my table manners, plus I've been meaning to work on that for a long time!

    I neglected to mention that I am working on making a budget based on my (and Mindy's) spending over the last year (using the Mint app). I'm also working on getting my own supplemental disability policy. Any suggestions for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely financial goals?

  3. In the future you can just ask if I have any SMART goals for you ;-) Mint is a phenomenal tool and I've been using it since 2010 to track expenses. One of the best features in Mint is the budget tool so you can set a monthly budget for something and see how you're doing. You do have to do a fair amount of categorization of the actual expenses but if you do it as you go it isn't too bad. I don't recommend a thousand line items in your budget - we only have a few categories.

    Bills and Utilities - Mortgage, Cell Phone, Insurance, Power and Water, Internet, Tithe, Trash (just stick them all in this one)
    Home - This is eating out, toilet paper, oil change supplies and everything else.

    keeping the categories relatively simple has been very helpful. the bills and utilities category I attacked ruthlessly in the initial part of our financial journey. Cutting cable, lowering internet speed, changing cell service, optimizing insurance, cutting my own hair. All that to say they are "fixed" costs but they shouldn't be removed from thinking about them.

    The single best SMART goal I would put forth is to establish a savings rate (how much you save/ how much you earn) you would like to achieve and try to measure that on a yearly basis. To support that determine how much should be saved each month and then at the end of every month pay off all credit cards and see how you did. Establishing a rhythm is very critical or else you can get lost in the minutia of where all the money is at and such.

    Dave Ramsey recommends 15% savings - I recommend 50% as a target. It will be impossible to set a goal and track it though without understanding how much you spend. And not a high level I think I spend this much, but a detailed line by line look for at least a couple of months to get a real handle and understanding.

    I can provide some other potential SMART goals as well if you don't like those ideas or if you want to take it to the next level. Some softer goals more completion based goals I would recommend would be the following:

    1. Read I Will teach you to be rich by Ramit Sethi
    2. Open a vanguard personal investing account
    3. Read the JLColins Stock Series -
    4. Read all Mr. Money Mustache Posts from the beginning to the present