Did You Grow Last Year?

I left Microsoft to embark on a one year experiment. 12 months later, much is still up in the air. I thought we could launch a product within a few months, and either gain traction or fail by the end of the year. While LazyMeter is almost in beta, it’s clearly taken longer than planned. This week, a few friends naturally asked how I feel about the first year of my experiment, and whether I have any regrets.

Life is good. I’m thrilled with the product we’re building, our LLC had significant revenue from consulting, and for the first time in recent memory, I can say I’ve grown. I’ve left my comfort zone, networking and returning to code, and I’ve rediscovered things I love to do like writing. This was very different than the years I spent distracted by things like salary, levels and promotions that now feel meaningless. While I couldn’t figure out the source of my dissatisfaction at Microsoft, I now realize I had to leave because I was waiting instead of growing. Looking back on the past year, I’m not upset with the opportunity cost, or things taking longer than planned. I’m thrilled that I no longer feel stuck and have made steps in the right direction. When I look to the future, I have countless options. I’ve never been closer to where I want to be, and I’m figuring out where I want to be at the same time. Leaving Microsoft to found a startup has been nothing short of a successful journey, no matter where I end up.

A critical component of happiness is continual growth. We should always try to make progress towards our goals. You don’t need to achieve your goal, but you do need to move towards it, even if just turning in its direction. While it’s easy to dream big for the future, these dreams are often intimidating, so it’s no surprise that so many New Year’s resolutions are abandoned. Each New Year’s, we look to the future, but we should start with the past. Specifically, we should ask ourselves whether we grew. Meaningful New Year’s resolutions are in response to this question.
This New Years, I suggest you resolve to grow. It’s fine if our New Year’s resolutions are lofty and unrealistic.  Dream big.  What really matters is whether we make positive progress towards our goals. If you’re not proud of your progress – if you feel stuck – then this is the year to make a change. I really enjoyed Marcello’s Open Letter to the Seattle Startup Community because it both sets goals for 2011, and appreciates the progress made so far towards the vision – have you made the same analysis for your life this year?

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