2012 Theme Word: Persist

For the 4th year in a row, I’m setting a theme word for the year rather than new year resolutions. The problem with the theme word selection process is that I spend much time thinking about it and coming up with the word, but then lack the time to write about my reasonings, which then leads me to not blog until I’ve posted the theme word. Last year, this had me on a hiatus until June. This year, it’s been going on so long it seems almost silly to write about it but I’ve been following it, even if I never did announce it. I’ve also found that I prefer my “new year” to start around my birthday so this seems like a good time to write about it. Previous years: Realize (2009), Listen (2010), and…

Last Year’s Theme Word: Nurture

You can read in depth about why I opted for nurture last year. In terms of how well I accomplished it, I have to say it was a mixed bag. My intent was not only to maintain all the great things that were in my life but also to grow them into more. Instead of putting energy into new projects, I wanted to double down.

For work, this took a drastic turn as I left Twitter in the middle of the year. However, while I wasn’t able to continue to nurture Twitter’s culture and product internally, I did continue to strengthen my relationships with those I had the pleasure to work with. Many of them are great friends today.

Personally speaking, it was my first year of marriage and first anniversary. In that respect, I think we’ve done a great job at continuing to have very open communication that’s served to make us stronger individually and as a couple.

This Year: Persist.

This year opens with a new company and new product in the works, a long running book that has just hit the printers, and probably many challenges ahead that I have yet to foresee. I elected for a word that represented what I think will be the greatest challenge for the year: to keep at it. The word applies to personal health and personal life as well—though perhaps less directly than “nurture” did.

Completing these projects requires persistence. There will be times where we need to meet somebody, or ask for money from someone, or get the attention of some publication. There will be moments when that home stretch on the book, or the grueling hours or lack of external validation may really challenge my morale and motivation. In those times, I remember the theme word and it pushes me forward.

Persistence vs. Passion

Recently, there’s been a few articles and blog posts written about the fallacy of “follow your passion”. I think these posts make some good points. In essence, they refer to the fact that simply following your passion may be too short-sighted. You may not discover something is a passion because you don’t stick through enough to get good at it. This reminds me of a quote from Adventure Time’s Jake the Dog:

jake the dog

Having said that, I do believe that people tend to fall into two categories:

  1. Those who jump too quickly to something else and give up too soon, before truly realizing their potential and assessing their passion based on this potential.
  2. Those who stick through something that sucks and they don’t enjoy out of sheer stubbornness to “see it through”, be it relationships, work, or projects.

My selection of “persist” this year is deliberate, with an understanding that I’ve started down the path of a few challenging projects and they require persistence to see through to completion. I don’t think persistence for the sake of persistence is the right thing to do. I’ve been working for years, perhaps even decades, on projects that lead up to both the book and the startup and know them to be passions of mine.

Joe Kraus, partner at Google Ventures and co-founder of Excite, wrote a piece a few years ago about the value of persistence. It applies as much to startups as it does anything. Once you find the things you believe in, then you keep at it until all options are exhausted and all you feel you couldn’t have done anything more. There are times when it’s time to step away and give up and the real wisdom that comes from experience is knowing the difference.

For this year, my path is to persist and try everything I can, put everything on the table, and see how it goes.

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