For all of 2020, I’m trying something different. Every month I’m setting a theme. As part of that theme, I’m also setting goals and habits to help it along the way. These themes aren’t limited to the month. Each is for the entire year and in addition to everything else added before it.
For January my theme was Focus, for February it was Finish, for March, Routine, for April Create, for May Work and for June Explore. I picked these themes based on what I felt was the most important at the time to help stay emotionally grounded, productive, and happy.
Side note: Check out the bottom of any of these “theme posts” to hear about how it went.
March, at the time, seemed to be the most significant month in years. COVID-19 shut down the world in a way I’ve only read about in science fiction books and comic books.
Two very-long months later and we have the largest organized demonstration in the history of the United States.
I updated my June theme post with a recap of my month and thoughts on everything happening there, so I’ll skip reiterating everything here – other than to say I hope the protests keep up until there are serious reforms and justice.
That includes abolishing qualified immunity, requiring body cams be on at all times, arresting police that commit crimes (uh, duh?), firing those that have aided or stood by, increase funding for the many services that could be used instead of police for non-violent 911/police calls, recalling mayors and governors that are allowing this, breaking the relationship between district attorneys and police that allow crimes to go unpunished – and more.
There’s a lot of work to be done. The way it’ll happen is by keeping pressure on our elected officials (and those not elected like police chiefs) through protests, voting (especially in local elections), volunteering, and donating to campaigns.
One thing’s clear: having a vision inspires change.
If you’ve worked in a corporate environment over the last 5 years, you’ve likely heard the term “2020 vision”. It’s a declaration of where the company is going by the year 2020 – and why. You may already be hearing “2025 vision” at this point.
Over my ~15 years in Corporate America I created dozens of these types of documents. I’ve read, watched and viewed dozens more.
I have a confession to make: I love them.
The importance of these can be overlooked. They can inspire creativity. They can help everyone prioritize work. They can help teams collaborate based on a common goal. Without a vision, there can be disorder, aimless action, and loss of enthusiasm.
That sounds a lot like what’s happening right now. It’s been tough for me to get excited about any specific things in the future lately. It’s a combination of change happening slowly and a difficulty to make any plans.
It’s become a joke that any time we make plans or remember something we enjoy we say “I wonder if we’ll ever do that again”. We were only recently thinking about FanX, Salt Lake City’s version of ComiCon, and found ourselves saying “I remember conventions”. Partly for social interaction, but mostly for the enthusiasm of being around so many passionate people.
And a little bit to see or pickup fun artwork for our apartment:
It’s this lack of a vision to hope and plan for that makes this period even worse. It’s bad – don’t get me wrong – but the lack of a plan forward makes it feel even worse.
There’s another side of this too: planning anything outside the home when COVID cases are at an all-time high and Black Lives Matter should be getting more attention feels wrong. Breonna Taylor‘s murders still somehow haven’t been arrested.
It’s possible to do both. You can press for social change, vote, volunteer, give, and make plans for a future that inspires you. If nothing else – working towards this social change is working towards a better future.
What Am I Hoping to Get Out of This?
My hope for this month is to restart hope. I want to have more things to look forward to. If they change, then they change. That’s OK too.
Planning is under-appreciated. Whenever I’m working on a problem and I get stuck, I take a step back and brainstorm what this thing I’m working on could be. That motivates me so much more than digging in and trying to push through. Returning to work after creating that vision is inspiring!
My hope is to do the same for personal projects, goals, dreams, and other parts of my life this month.
How Will I Do This?
Plan it. Envision it. Take actionable steps.
None of this involves leaving my apartment. As I write this on July 3rd, the US had its highest-ever COVID-19 cases yesterday. Having a vision doesn’t mean acting on it now, or putting other people at risk.
The hope is to have solid plans for how to make the most out of life once things return to a new normal.
I’m writing this from an extremely privileged position. Retiring in my 30s? That’s a dream come true. We have no yard, no kids, no tenants, no business. Our only responsibilities are our growing potted plant collection and Lily, our 12-year old cavalier spaniel-poodle mix. Being able to focus on planning a future is something I don’t take for granted.
A vision of the future that inspires you can be anything! 10 years ago when we lived in a house in Florida my vision was not doing yard work. When I had a 45-minute commute to work my vision was not driving to work.
For a while, I had a vision of owning real estate and becoming a landlord. After reading dozens of books about landlording, getting a team together of bankers, contractors, and real estate professionals I realized that wasn’t a vision that I wanted. It’s OK if your vision changes over time.
Creating a vision for the future is a step towards it. With that in mind, here are a few vision-related items I’m aiming for this month.
Revise my list of 101 Things I Want to Know, Have, Do or Be. I created this list about 2 years ago now. Since then I’ve accomplished some goals: retire early, volunteer at the Sundance Film Festival, ski black diamond slopes, and a few more. I’ve also removed goals that weren’t bringing value (eating at every 3 Michelin Star restaurant would be neat, but I’d rather eat whatever’s good and local).
My hope this month is to take a deep look at this list and figure out what I should update, add or remove. There’s no point in having a bucket list if you’re not working towards it. Even when stuck at home I can make progress on a few dozen items on here.
That starts with inspiration to focus on them – not on keeping up with Twitter. One approach to digital minimalism is to stop using social media altogether. Another way is to create other hobbies that you are so enthusiastic about that you don’t want to spend time consuming content. That’s what I’m shooting for.
Follow along: Create your own list of 101 Things you want to know, have do, or be!
Create a Utah bucket list. We moved out to Utah in December of 2017. It has been an adventure. Both Mrs. Minafi and I were able to transfer here for our jobs. We moved not knowing much about the state. In fact, Utah was the 40th US state I visited. That meant there was a lot we hadn’t seen.
We’re renters and don’t plan to live here forever. When we moved to town we thought about it as a 5-year trip. After that, we’d revisit the idea and see if we still wanted to live here. That 5 years is up in 2022 and there’s still so much we want to do! It’s overwhelming to keep all those ideas in our heads, so I’m hoping Mrs. Minafi and I can create our own Utah bucket lists to work towards before we move – whenever that may be.
Follow along: Create a bucket list for your own state. What can you do in your own backyard?
Plan trips, but don’t plan a date. So far in 2020, we’ve canceled a 3-week trip to South Korean & Taiwan and a weekend getaway to Vegas with friends. I have a feeling we’ll also cancel our week-long stay in Long Beach for FinCon that extended with a 2-day trip to Disneyland. Until there is a vaccine we don’t intend to go on any trips that involve close quarters indoors or flying.
From our base in Salt Lake City that leaves a bunch of options. There are 3 National Parks in Utah we’ve never been to – and even more parks farther south or in Colorado.
When I say “plan a trip”, I mean research a trip. Find places to stay, things to do, and tasty things to eat.
Once there’s a vaccine, or people start wearing their damn masks, we’ll plan a date.
Follow along: Make a plan for a trip! Get inspired about a place you want to go and investigate it to the point you know the area.
Find our next big event trip. When I say “event trip”, I mean a trip that’s dependent on a being at a place on a specific date.
We don’t plan based on events too often, but the times we have are memorable. A few years ago we flew to Japan to be there for the cherry blossom season (right around the beginning of April). We loved it so much we went back for our honeymoon.
Last year we flew to New York to see Moulin Rouge premiere on Broadway – based on one of Mrs. Minafi’s all-time favorite movies. The show was amazing. If you enjoyed the original you’ll get a kick out of this version with updated songs.
We don’t have a next event-based trip to look forward to right now. It’d be fun to decide on what it’ll be – even if we don’t end up going for a few years. I have an entire list of events I want to go to someday. Octoberfest in Germany, seeing the Olympics in person, tulip season in the Netherlands, wisteria in Japan, burning man, and the lantern festival in Thailand just to name a few.
I’m optimistic all of these events will still go on, but they may pause for a while. We’re in no rush to do all of these right away.
Follow along: Find an event to get excited about! It could be one on the other side of the globe or on the other side of your town.
All of these vision-related activities are personal. They aren’t visions to make humanity better or to shape how I can help the world in an optimal way. That’s OK! With everything happening in the world today you may feel slightly selfish, as I do, to plan for happier times.
There’s a long road ahead of us to return to any sense of normalcy. The spike in COVID cases lately show what happens when we try to force it too quickly.
Likewise, I hope many things never return to “normal”. 2020 could be the beginning of a one-in-a-generation change – if we have a vision for it.