2011 Theme Word: Nurture

2011 Theme Word: Nurture

It’s been over 6 months since I last blogged. What better time to start than the halfway point in the year? And what better topic than—New Year’s Resolutions. Luckily, mine wasn’t “blog more”. As in years past, rather than set New Year’s Resolutions, I’d adopted the practice of defining a theme word for the year. I did in fact choose one in January but had not shared it. Now seems like a good time.

Last year, my theme word was listen. It was easily the best word I’ve selected so far and it served me incredibly well. Listening was about getting all perspectives. To listen—to truly pay attention—to your friends, your family, your loved ones, you coworkers, your team, and your users is a real challenge. But when done with conviction and concentration, it makes every other challenge seem trivial.

It was by no means an easy year; We had a lot going on in our lives. I’d started a new job at Twitter. Working with an amazingly talented and dedicated team, we launched a redesign of Twitter’s web site, #NewTwitter. Coley and I went to Burning Man for the first time which required a great deal of preparation and planning (mostly on Coley’s part). And of course, most importantly, we got married.

Each of these were significant undertakings. In each case, we had to listen to many different people, take their needs into consideration, and then create—not compromise—something magical for everyone. Given hindsight, I’d do some things differently but I know that the decisions made at the time were done with the most listening I could possibly have done. It was a pretty good year.

Keeping It Going

In professional sports, there’s a term called “The Sophomore Slump”. It refers to professional athletes who often have an incredible first (“rookie”) year but their performance drops significantly the second year. Perhaps it’s the familiarity or perhaps it’s a human tendency to rest on laurels. I was acutely aware that, with such a marquee year behind me, I might suffer an equivalent “slump” if I wasn’t diligent.

I wanted to make sure I didn’t become overly confident nor approach anything as though I was entitled. In terms of my marriage, my work, and my friends, I wanted a focus this year on not taking anything or anyone for granted. The theme word needed to be a reminder to continue the drive and remain humble. “Momentum” was a candidate. But momentum is what happens with one push and no opposing force.

Then I realized that looking for words around not taking something for granted was under-achieving. Such a word would essentially dictate keeping the status quo and protecting what I have. To continue the sports analogy, this approach is akin to fearing a loss rather than seeking a win. What I needed was a word that would encourage taking what I had accomplished and growing it to new heights.

That word is NURTURE.

To nurture something is to care for it, support it, and help it flourish and grow, not just prevent it from dying. I aim to nurture the products I help build, the bonds I form with others, my body, and my skills. I also hope to help others grow, professionally and personally. Most importantly, in our first year of marriage, it’s important to nurture the relationship between us and between our families.

Checkpoint

Since I’m only sharing the theme word now, I’m also at a point where I can check in and see how well I’m adhering to the theme word. Sadly, compared to last year, I feel that I haven’t succeeded in following this theme despite my best intentions. I don’t feel I’ve helped others become better, I haven’t strengthened my relationships significantly, and I’ve noticed myself falling into the trap of feeling entitled at times.

The silver lining is that I’ve taken some great steps toward nurturing my body and my skills. Thanks to the urging of persistent coworkers and friends (Thanks EJ, Karen, Karina, Benji!), this year has seen me take on many new activities. I bought my first bike and am commuting on it daily. And because I grew tired of depending on others for my ideas, I’ve started to return to my engineering roots in my spare time.

Checking in half way is both sobering and motivating. It’s disappointing to feel that I haven’t followed through on my intentions but there’s still many months to see it through. The current trend is upwards and I’m optimistic that it will remain so. One thing that’s abundantly clear is that I did achieve my goal of opting for a more challenging (and therefore worthy) theme word; Nurturing is hard work.

1 Comment

  1. Dave Gray · 11 Jul 11

    Thanks for sharing this Kevin. It sounds like a very meaningful practice. It’s inspiring to know that you live your life so mindfully.