2010 Theme Word: Listen

Last year, I had the privilege of spending New Year’s Day with Tantek Çelik, Julie Melton, Matthew Levine, Silona Bonewald, Mark Trammell, April Buchert, and Jonathan Zittrain. We were gathered for LifeCamp 2008/2009, a regular meeting where we help our friends and peers both reflect on the past year and plan for the next.

One concept born from the original LifeCamp (2007/2008) was the idea of defining a year with a theme word. Rather than a laundry list of resolutions, the challenge was to distill the coming year and what you want to achieve into a single word.

2009 Recap: Realize

I looked back at 2008 and empirically defined 2008 with the theme word BEGINNINGS because it marked the beginning of many aspects of my life. My theme word for 2009 was REALIZE as it seemed like the year where many of these beginnings would really flourish to their full potential.

My #themeword from 2009: Realize

But as I look back, a lot of the potential seems to have blossomed but not quite bloomed. My brother Jamie’s first tweet of 2010 could just as easily be applied to me:

My brother Jamie's first tweet of the year

With our wedding date set for 10/10/10, my new position at Twitter, and the book finally nearing completion, I could easily say 2010 is the real year to REALIZE.

But that would be too easy.

When I was considering what theme word I’d pick for 2010, I toyed with words centered around success, achievements, and completion. For some reason, these words just didn’t quite seem to resonate as a theme. I started looking around me to see which theme words my friends were choosing. They’d always been a source of inspiration so why not look at their themes and goals and see if that might help inspire me?

Putting Myself Together

It was then that I realized: looking for ideas and growth around me is exactly what I wanted to do more of this year. I found that I could even identify individual traits and skills I’d learned—both explicitly and implicitly—from those close to me. Reflecting on these influences was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle of myself.

From my mom, I learned generosity. She is unquestionably the most giving person I know both in terms of attention and material goods. She also taught me what it’s like to be passionate about even the smallest things. That passion leads to an ability to express opinions and feelings without reservation—a trait that I knew I had but only recently recognized its origin.

From my dad, I learned to be an engineer. His summer holiday assignment when I was 12 was to write a program to find all the prime numbers between 1 and 100 in BASIC. He also taught levity, reason, and is probably the source of my analytical-mindedness.

My younger brother, Jamie, is married and has his own company. In many ways, though 5 years younger, he has acted as my stable anchor and a reminder of both personal and fiscal responsibility. At the same time, his audacious goals and drive push me to shoot for more.

I can’t even do justice to what I learn from Coley, my fiancée, on a daily basis. She’s given me a more macro consciousness and awareness of everything around me that I just didn’t have before. It’s almost like developing a superpower. With that awareness, I’ve also started to recognize drama for what it is and subsequently avoid it. Most of all, I’ve come to realize how much awareness one can have simply by communicating much, much more.

Communicating by Listening

Recognizing how much of a superpower communicating is, I decided that my theme word for 2010 would be LISTEN.

With my friends and family, I hope to not only learn from everyone but also pay attention to their needs. When one is truly listening, they can act rather than react.

Similarly, with my new role at Twitter, I’ll be aiming to listen and learn both from my colleagues and from the community and businesses who use Twitter.

I’m excited to hear what everyone has to say.


  1. Saly Carson · 9 Jan 10

    I had a similar resolution, or theme, a couple years back: Talk less, listen more. It was a helpful mantra which I think (I hope) resulted in me becoming less mindlessly chatty and helped me to engage with the people around me in a more meaningful way. Totally applies to user-centered design too, listening is central to what we do!

  2. Keith · 11 Jan 10

    Great word Kevin, and an awesome sentiment to go along with it. Can’t wait to listen to what you’ve got to say throughout the year here!

  3. urban_mermaid · 11 Jan 10

    Fantastic Kevin! You are one of the most accomplished people I know. The other aspect of Listening is the ability to sit back and reflect and incorporate, which sounds like the very purpose you chose this. Good luck!

  4. Fabienne · 11 Jan 10

    What a great word. You got me thinking about what my word for the year is. I haven’t defined it but as I was speaking to one of my close friends yesterday, I experiencing a lot of relief around doing what I believe is right in my heart. I’m going to marinade on it… maybe I’ll have my word next time we see each other.