Resolution update: October 2016

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

I have fluid trapped behind my eardrum, making it hard to hear, but I don't think it will kill me. 

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I gained two pounds in October. Fifteen down and five to go. 

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.

Done.

4. Practice yoga at least three days a week.

I should really get going on this soon.

WRITING CAREER

5. Complete my fifth novel before the end of February.

Done!

6. Complete my sixth novel.

I have two novels that are more than halfway finished and one that is finished but requires a complete re-write. However, I'm not sure if any of these will be my next novel. I am still completing final revisions on my next book, so I can't make that decision until the process is complete. 

Looking unlikely that I will complete this by the end of the year. 

7. Write a proposal for a middle grade novel.

Done! The editor and her team love the book. Some minor revisions are needed, and then we hope to have an offer.

We are already discussing a possible followup. 

8. Write at least three new picture books. 

One of my now former students and I are writing a picture book. Now that we are back in school, work has commenced again. I am also editing two previously written picture books.

The other new picture books will be written during this school year, but I'd better get moving.

9. Complete a book proposal for a book on storytelling.

Done! Five chapters are finished now, plus an outline and comparisons have been re-sent to my agent. She LOVES it. Hopefully a publisher loves it just as much.  

10. Write a new screenplay

No progress yet.

11. Write a musical for a summer camp

Done! I had the pleasure of watching the musical performed at the summer camp at the beginning of the month, and it was fantastic.

12. Publish at least one Op-Ed in The New York Times.

I've submitted two Op-Ed pieces to the New York Times and been rejected both times.

I am now working on a new piece. 

13. Publish an article in an educational journal.

No progress yet. 

14. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

No progress yet.

15. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

I spent a week backing my car into parking spots (which initially struck me as insane) and wrote about it in August. It actually received a lot of attention from readers.

In September I engaged in a month of daily affirmations. I will be writing about this experience in October. 

I need to select one more behavior that I oppose before the end of the year. Suggestions are welcomed. 

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,000.

Done! My subscriber list now stands at 1,192 readers. My list has grown by more than 30% in 2016. 

If you'd like to join the masses and receive my monthly newsletter, which contains a writing and storytelling tip, an Internet recommendation, book recommendations, free giveaways, and more, subscribe here:

17. Collaborate with a former colleague on an educational book.

This project has been cancelled. After meeting with my collaborator, we determined that I am not best suited for this project.  

Oddly enough, that collaborator is now my principal. 

STORYTELLING

18. Produce a total of 12 Speak Up storytelling events.

Done! We produced shows at the Infinity Hall and The Mount in October, bringing our total number of shows to 16 in 2016.

19. Deliver a TED Talk.

Done twice over! 

I spoke at TEDxNatick in January. The title of the talk was "Live Your Life Like Your 100 Year-Old Self." 
Here's the recording: 

I also spoke at the TEDx conference at The Country School in Madison, CT in April. The title of the talk was "Speak Less. Expect More."  
Here is the recording:

20. Attend at least 15 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

Done! In October, I attended Moth StorySLAMs at Oberon in Cambridge and and Town Hall in Flushing. This brings my total number of Moth events in 2016 to 23.

21. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

Done! I attended two StorySLAMs in October and won both times (three slams in a row now), bringing my total number of wins to three.

After a bad run of luck at the beginning of the year, it seems as if things are finally turning around.  

22. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

Done! I won the Moth GrandSLAM in Somerville in March. 

23. Launch at least one new podcast.

I have a name. I essentially need a good logo and I'm ready to go.

24. Launch a storytelling project that I will otherwise remain vague about here but will become a primary focus of 2016. 

Work on this project is specifically tied to the sale of my storytelling book. 

NEW PROJECTS

25. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

No progress.

26. Learn to cook three good meals for my wife.

I cooked two new meals for Elysha in August thanks to Blue Apron and a friend who was kind enough to pass on meals to me.

I made barbecue pork burgers with onion straws and corn on the cob. I also made curried catfish with coconut rice, green beans, and a raisin chutney. 

I could easily make both again. 

One meal to go. 

27. Plan a 25 year reunion of the Heavy Metal Playhouse.

I'm still seeking a location for the reunion near the Heavy Metal Playhouse (since the apartment complex does not have a room to rent) and will then decide upon a date.

MISCELLANEOUS

28. Replace the 12 ancient, energy-inefficient windows in our home with new windows that will keep the cold out and actually open in the warmer months.

No progress. 

29. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

I'm still hoping Elysha will take care of this during the fall.

30. Set a new personal best in golf.

I played five rounds of golf in October and never shot below 50.

As stated previously, I have begun a serious and committed change of my swing under the guidance of a friend who also happens to be an outstanding teacher. As a result, I am hitting the ball farther, higher, and less consistently.

I also have a new grip that I will practice all winter long. 

31. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

I played one game back in April. I need some people who want to play.

32. Do not speak negatively about another person's physical appearance except when done in jest with my closest friends. 

Done. I came close to commenting on a teenager's appearance when he annoyed me, but I refrained. 

Here's a potentially new idea for next year: 

I will not comment on physical appearance - good or bad - in any way unless I am speaking to my wife and children. I already adhere to this policy in the classroom as a teacher, so why not expand it throughout my life? 

My goal is to reduce the amount of attention paid to physical appearance in this society, shifting attention to things that truly matter: words and actions. I understand that one man's crusade may not change the world, but perhaps it will change my world and influence those around me. 

Change often starts small, many times with one person. And I believe in this cause.  

I'm not sure about this goal yet, but I'm considering it. Thoughts?

33. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.

Done.

This is exactly what you need to accomplish your goals. Nothing more.

Want some advice on how to create? On how to get things done? How to accomplish your goals? 

There's nothing better than this from writer and storyteller Dan Kennedy:

You have to encourage yourself. I woke up with this weird urgent need to tell everyone that. We have to travel with our own fuel onboard.
— Dan Kennedy

This is not the first time that I've quoted Dan on this blog. He says a lot of smart things. 

In case you missed my previous posts, they include:

"When people tell me they don't have enough time to write, I tell them to throw a trashcan through the window of a bank or airport."

"There are people who write every now and then. And there are writers who are people every now and then."

"Most movies about life depend on giant change, chapters ending, chapters beginning. Real life depends on sticking with things."

"When it comes to work, you're gonna end up doing what you want to do. Period. Spend 10 minutes or 30 years fighting it if you insist."

"Buy books for yourself and for other people."

Finalized New Year's resolutions for 2016 (including three new goals)

I posted my 2016 goals on January 1, but I always allow myself two weeks to make additions based upon the feedback from readers and friends as well as thoughts of my own. 

As a result, I'm adding three items to this year's list. They are:

Launch a storytelling project that I will otherwise remain vague about here but will become a primary focus of 2016. 

Details regarding this project will be announced when appropriate. Suffice it to say it will be one of my most exciting and challenging endeavors of 2016.   

Collaborate with a former colleague on an educational book.

The book is already written but needs a revised direction. I also find it exceedingly productive to collaborate with people when the collaboration represents an enormous percentage of their creative output and a much smaller percentage of my own. This allows me to participate in the process creatively while benefiting from the enthusiasm and drive of my collaborator.   

Do not speak negatively about another person's physical appearance except when done in jest with my closest friends. 

When my friend tells me that I have T-Rex arms (which I do not), I can fire back with comments about his height. When a friend comments on my thinning hair line, I can point out his expanding waist line. These are comments made without malice.

But when I see someone I don't know or don't know well who appears out of the ordinary - oddly dressed, obese, or otherwise appearing out of the ordinary - I will refrain from saying anything negatively about the person to anyone at anytime - then or later. Simply put, my goal is to cease all negative comments related to appearance unless these comments are made in jest with friends. 

Ideally, I would like to avoid these thoughts, too, and will try my best, but it's hard (and perhaps impossible) to not think something. But not saying something is within all of our capabilities.  

I recently wrote about this goal for The Huffington Post.

Below is my complete set of goals for 2016.
______________________________

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Recommended by a friend years ago. Still valid today and deserving of the first spot on the list.

2. Lose 20 pounds.

Since my first weight goal in 2010, I have lost a total of 53 pounds. Another 20 is ambitious, but it would get me down to my high school weight, and I’m willing to try to make that happen.

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.

I’ve accomplished this goal for three years in a row, but it’s not exactly automatic, so it remains on the list.

4. Practice yoga at least three days a week.

This is a modification of last year's five times a week goal. 

WRITING CAREER

5. Complete my fifth novel before the end of February.

The due date is February 28, so I'd better have it finished by then!

6. Complete my sixth novel.

I have two novels that are more than halfway finished. One of these will likely become my sixth novel. I hope. 

7. Write a middle grade novel.

An editor who passed on my picture books believes that I have the sensibility and humor to write a middle grade novel. I'm going to give it a shot.

8. Write at least three new picture books. 

My first three picture books are finished and in the hands of my agent. I have ideas for many more and an excellent test audience of fifth graders. I plan to bring three of these ideas to fruition in 2016.

9. Complete a book proposal for a book on storytelling.

The book is outlined, and most of the proposal is written. I need to write two sample chapters to complete the proposal. 

10. Write a new screenplay

This is a failed goal from 2015 that I plan to complete this year. I have a film agent who believes in my ability to write movies and is willing to read my screenplays, so it's stupid not to be writing them. 

11. Write a musical for a summer camp

For the last two years, I have written musicals for a local summer camp with my composer and lyricist, Andy Mayo. One of those musicals is now being produced by a children's theater company and will go on tour in the spring. 

In 2016, I plan to write another musical for the camp. 

Andy wants us to write another adult musical as well. In 2012 we wrote and produced a rock opera called The Clowns at a local theater and have been trying to get it into festivals or other theaters ever since. I'm not ready to commit to that goal, though the story for that musical is firmly set in my mind. 

12. Publish at least one Op-Ed in The New York Times.

I published two pieces in the Hartford Courant in 2015. I'd like to get my first piece into The New York Times in 2016. This goal violates my policy of setting goals that do not depend on the preferences of other people, but simply writing a piece for the Times is not enough of an accomplishment in this case. I need to get a piece published. 

My real goal is to land another column in a magazine, newspaper, or online publication this year, but I’m keeping this goal more reasonable.

13. Publish an article in an educational journal.

My Superintendent and I plan to write a piece about educational leadership based on work that we have done. I intend on getting it published at a journal in 2016.

14. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

A failed goal in 2015 that I am re-committing myself to again. 

15. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

A failed goal in 2015 that I am re-committing myself to again. 

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,000.

I just crossed over the 900 subscriber mark. Getting to 1,000 should not be difficult. The real goal is to begin to tailor my newsletter to reader preference so more people will want to read.

17. Collaborate with a former colleague on an educational book.

The book is already written but needs a revised direction. I also find it exceedingly productive to collaborate with people when the collaboration represents an enormous percentage of their creative output and a much smaller percentage of my own. This allows me to participate in the process creatively while benefiting from the enthusiasm and drive of my collaborator.   

STORYTELLING

18. Produce a total of 12 Speak Up storytelling events.

We produced eight shows in 2014 and 12 shows in 2015, so 12 shows in 2016 is a more than reasonable goal.

19. Deliver a TED Talk.

I’ve had some bad luck in terms of TED Talks over the past three years.

I did a TED Talk at the AT&T Conference Center in 2013 that went extremely well, but technical difficulties made the audio on the recording almost indiscernible. I hope to reproduce the talk at another TED event someday. 

I did a TED Talk at Western Connecticut State University in 2013 that went flawlessly, but the college students who hosted the conference never posted the recording online.

I did a TED Talk in April of 2014 in Somerville, Massachusetts that also went well, but my 15 minute talk was accidentally put on a nine minute timer, which forced me to dump sections of my talk on the fly and speak faster than I would’ve liked. The talk was good, but it was not exactly what I had planned. I can see myself not fully engaging with the audience because of the need to mentally track time. There was room for improvement.

I did a TED Talk at Boston University in April of 2015. The recording started almost two minutes into my talk, and one of the cameras failed. The actual talk went well but the recording is useless. Again, I'd like to repeat this talk at some point for TED. 

I did a TED Talk in November of 2015 in the Berkshires that went very well. The recordings is excellent. I inexplicably pronounce the word "better" as "batter" near the end, but otherwise, it's a solid talk. Perhaps my luck is finally turning around.  

I hope to successfully pitch myself to at least one TED conference in 2016. 

20. Attend at least 15 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

I attended 27 Moth events in 2015, so this number is more than reasonable.

21. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

I won one slam in 2011.
I won two slams in 2012.
I won seven slams in 2013.
I won five slams in 2014. 
I won three slams in 2015.

Three may seem like an ambitious number for 2016, but since 2011, I've competed in 42 Moth StorySLAMs and won 20 (a 48% win rate). If I compete in at least 10 StorySLAMs in 2016, I should be able to win at least three. 

Right? (he said hopefully)

22. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I won one GrandSLAM in 2014.
I won two GrandSLAMs in 2015. 

Winning one in 2016 is not an unreasonable goal.  

23. Launch at least one new podcast.

I have several podcast ideas, but the next one will be a podcast on writing and storytelling. Originally, the podcast was going to be called Author Outloud, but the name will likely change to something related to storytelling on the page and on the stage.

Elysha will be co-hosting this podcast.  

24. Launch a storytelling project that I will otherwise remain vague about here but will become a primary focus of 2016. 

Details regarding this project will be announced when appropriate. Suffice it to say it will be one of my most exciting and challenging endeavors of 2016.   

NEW PROJECTS

25. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

A failed goal in 2015 that I am re-committing myself to again. 

I intend on hosting an evening of Shakespeare. Friends will join us around the table to read a Shakespearean play aloud, with each person assuming a different role. I already have a group of people who have agreed to attend.

26. Learn to cook three good meals for my wife.

A failed goal from 2015. The only meal that I am capable of cooking for Elysha at this time is macaroni and cheese and hot dogs, which is amazing but not very impressive. I want to be able to cook three meals for her that she loves by the end of the year.

27. Plan a 25 year reunion of the Heavy Metal Playhouse.

My friend, Bengi, and I lived in a home that became known as the Heavy Metal Playhouse from 1989-1993. It was four of the best years of my life. Enormous parties, the closest of friendships, and the wildness of youth left an indelible mark on me. While I stay in touch with many of my friends from those days, I have not seen many of them in a long time. We have attempted to plan a reunion in the past without success. This year I would like to make this happen.

MISCELLANEOUS

28. Replace the 12 ancient, energy-inefficient windows in our home with new windows that will keep the cold out and actually open in the warmer months.

A failed goal from 2012 that I am reviving because these windows are making me crazy.   

29. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

After failing to replace our rear projection television for almost 14 years, we have fallen seriously behind in terms of streaming content services. Our goal is to optimize our television viewing in 2016 by cutting the cord and installing a system that subscribes to the streaming services that best fit our needs while maintaining the content that we already enjoy. 

In truth, we barely watch any television, so this shouldn't be hard.

30. Set a new personal best in golf.

My lowest score for nine holes is a 45, and my lowest score for 18 holes is 95. I’d like to improve on either score in 2015.

31. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

I love poker. I paid for our honeymoon with profits from poker. I made a mortgage payment in 2012 with poker profits. I am a good poker player who did not play at all in 2015 because of the time shifted to writing and storytelling. While I don't regret this shift, I miss poker a great deal and need to bring it back into my life. Six games is not an unreasonable goal.   

32. Do not speak negatively about another person's physical appearance except when done in jest with my closest friends. 

When my friend tells me that I have T-Rex arms (which I do not), I can fire back with comments about his height. When a friend comments on my thinning hair line, I can point out his expanding waist line. These are comments made without malice.

But when I see someone I don't know or don't know well who appears out of the ordinary - oddly dressed, obese, or otherwise appearing out of the ordinary - I will refrain from saying anything negatively about the person to anyone at anytime - then or later. Simply put, my goal is to cease all negative comments related to appearance unless these comments are made in jest with friends. 

Ideally, I would like to avoid these thoughts, too, and will try my best, but it's hard (and perhaps impossible) to not think something. But not saying something is within all of our capabilities.  

I recently wrote about this goal for The Huffington Post.

33. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.

New Year's resolutions: 2016

As always, I reserve the right to alter the list for up to one week after posting. Suggestions are still welcome.

It's also important to note that some items, like meditating daily, flossing daily, exercising at least five days a week, trying new foods as they are presented to me, and others have dropped off the list as these behaviors have become habits. 

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Recommended by a friend years ago. Still valid today and deserving of the first spot on the list.

2. Lose 20 pounds.

Since my first weight goal in 2010, I have lost a total of 53 pounds. Another 20 is ambitious, but it would get me down to my high school weight, and I’m willing to try to make that happen.

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.

I’ve accomplished this goal for three years in a row, but it’s not exactly automatic, so it remains on the list.

4. Practice yoga at least three days a week.

This is a modification of last year's five times a week goal. 

WRITING CAREER

5. Complete my fifth novel before the end of February.

The due date is February 28, so I'd better have it finished by then!

6. Complete my sixth novel.

I have two novels that are more than halfway finished. One of these will likely become my sixth novel. I hope. 

7. Write a middle grade novel.

An editor who passed on my picture books believes that I have the sensibility and humor to write a middle grade novel. I'm going to give it a shot.

8. Write at least three new picture books. 

My first three picture books are finished and in the hands of my agent. I have ideas for many more and an excellent test audience of fifth graders. I plan to bring three of these ideas to fruition in 2016.

9. Complete a book proposal for a book on storytelling.

The book is outlined, and most of the proposal is written. I need to write two sample chapters to complete the proposal. 

10. Write a new screenplay

This is a failed goal from 2015 that I plan to complete this year. I have a film agent who believes in my ability to write movies and is willing to read my screenplays, so it's stupid not to be writing them. 

11. Write a musical for a summer camp

For the last two years, I have written musicals for a local summer camp with my composer and lyricist, Andy Mayo. One of those musicals is now being produced by a children's theater company and will go on tour in the spring. 

In 2016, I plan to write another musical for the camp. 

Andy wants us to write another adult musical as well. In 2012 we wrote and produced a rock opera called The Clowns at a local theater and have been trying to get it into festivals or other theaters ever since. I'm not ready to commit to that goal, though the story for that musical is firmly set in my mind. 

12. Publish at least one Op-Ed in The New York Times.

I published two pieces in the Hartford Courant in 2015. I'd like to get my first piece into The New York Times in 2016. This goal violates my policy of setting goals that do not depend on the preferences of other people, but simply writing a piece for the Times is not enough of an accomplishment in this case. I need to get a piece published. 

My real goal is to land another column in a magazine, newspaper, or online publication this year, but I’m keeping this goal more reasonable.

13. Publish an article in an educational journal.

My Superintendent and I plan to write a piece about educational leadership based on work that we have done. I intend on getting it published at a journal in 2015.

14. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

A failed goal in 2015 that I am re-committing myself to again. 

15. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

A failed goal in 2015 that I am re-committing myself to again. 

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,000.

I just crossed over the 900 subscriber mark. Getting to 1,000 should not be difficult. The real goal is to begin to tailor my newsletter to reader preference so more people will want to read.

STORYTELLING

16. Produce a total of 12 Speak Up storytelling events.

We produced eight shows in 2014 and 12 shows in 2015, so 12 shows in 2016 is a more than reasonable goal.

17. Deliver a TED Talk.

I’ve had some bad luck in terms of TED Talks over the past three years.

I did a TED Talk at the AT&T Conference Center in 2013 that went extremely well, but technical difficulties made the audio on the recording almost indiscernible. I hope to reproduce the talk at another TED event someday. 

I did a TED Talk at Western Connecticut State University in 2013 that went flawlessly, but the college students who hosted the conference never posted the recording online.

I did a TED Talk in April of 2014 in Somerville, Massachusetts that also went well, but my 15 minute talk was accidentally put on a nine minute timer, which forced me to dump sections of my talk on the fly and speak faster than I would’ve liked. The talk was good, but it was not exactly what I had planned. There was room for improvement.

I did a TED Talk at Boston University in April of 2015. The recording started almost two minutes into my talk, and one of the cameras failed. The actual talk went well but the recording is useless. Again, I'd like to repeat this talk at some point for TED. 

I did a TED Talk in November of 2015 in the Berkshires that went very well. The recordings is excellent. Perhaps my luck is finally turning around.  

I hope to successfully pitch myself to at least one TED conference in 2016. 

18. Attend at least 15 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

I attended 27 Moth events in 2015, so this number is more than reasonable.

19. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

I won one slam in 2011.
I won two slams in 2012.
I won seven slams in 2013.
I won five slams in 2014. 
I won three slams in 2015.

Three may seem like an ambitious number for 2016, but since 2011, I've competed in 42 Moth StorySLAMs and won 20 (a 48% win rate). If I compete in at least 10 StorySLAMs in 2016, I should be able to win at least three. 

Right? (he said hopefully)

20. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I won one GrandSLAM in 2014.
I won two GrandSLAMs in 2015. 

Winning one in 2016 is not an unreasonable goal.  

21. Launch at least one new podcast.

I have several podcast ideas, but the next one will be a podcast on writing and storytelling. Originally, the podcast was going to be called Author Outloud, but the name will likely change to something related to storytelling on the page and on the stage.

Elysha will be co-hosting this podcast.  

NEW PROJECTS

22. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

A failed goal in 2015 that I am re-committing myself to again. 

I intend on hosting an evening of Shakespeare. Friends will join us around the table to read a Shakespearean play aloud, with each person assuming a different role. I already have a group of people who have agreed to attend.

23. Learn to cook three good meals for my wife.

A failed goal from 2015. The only meal that I am capable of cooking for Elysha at this time is macaroni and cheese and hot dogs, which is amazing but not very impressive. I want to be able to cook three meals for her that she loves by the end of the year.

24. Plan a 25 year reunion of the Heavy Metal Playhouse.

My friend, Bengi, and I lived in a home that became known as the Heavy Metal Playhouse from 1989-1993. It was four of the best years of my life. Enormous parties, the closest of friendships, and the wildness of youth left an indelible mark on me. While I stay in touch with many of my friends from those days, I have not seen many of them in a long time. We have attempted to plan a reunion in the past without success. This year I would like to make this happen.

MISCELLANEOUS

25. Replace the 12 ancient, energy-inefficient windows in our home with new windows that will keep the cold out and actually open in the warmer months.

A failed goal from 2012 that I am reviving because these windows are making me crazy.   

26. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

After failing to replace our rear projection television for almost 14 years, we have fallen seriously behind in terms of streaming content services. Our goal is to optimize our television viewing in 2016 by cutting the cord and installing a system that subscribes to the streaming services that best fit our needs while maintaining the content that we already enjoy. 

In truth, we barely watch any television, so this shouldn't be hard.

27. Set a new personal best in golf.

My lowest score for nine holes is a 45, and my lowest score for 18 holes is 95. I’d like to improve on either score in 2015.

28. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

I love poker. I paid for our honeymoon with profits from poker. I made a mortgage payment in 2012 with poker profits. I am a good poker player who did not play at all in 2015 because of the time shifted to writing and storytelling. While I don't regret this shift, I miss poker a great deal and need to bring it back into my life. Six games is not an unreasonable goal.   

29. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.

Resolution update: 2015 in review

In an effort to hold myself accountable, I post the progress of my yearly goals at the end of each month on this blog. The following are the results through the end of 2015.

In 2015, I completed 19 of 32 goals for a success rate of 59%. While this is not great, it compares well to previous five year average of 51%. 

My previous year success rates:

2010: 44%
2011: 62%
2012: 30%
2013: 60%
2014: 60%

I performed especially well in the areas of storytelling (seven out of seven goals completed) and personal health (three out of six completed, with solid progress on a fourth).

I also did well in the writing category (seven out of 14 goals completed), but this total should have been better had I phrased the goals more appropriately. 

In 2016, I need to ensure that I set goals that do not rely on others for completion. Three of my writing goals in 2015 were dependent upon the sale of a book. Instead, they should have been rephrased as the completion of a book. My goals should reflect my effort and not the preferences or tardiness of book editors. 

While I'm pleased with the overall success in 2015, there were some missed opportunities. My biggest disappointments were my failure to lose 20 pounds and my failure to write a new screenplay. Both of these were very doable in 2015. 

There were also a few pathetic failures. Failing to learn three new recipes and failing to submit short stories to publishing outlets stand out as especially lame. 

They aren't that difficult.

This was also the second consecutive year that I failed to schedule an evening of Shakespeare in my home, despite interest among many friends.

I also accomplished half a dozen goals that did not make my initial list but became important as the year progressed.

  1. I performed in two Moth Mainstages in 2015 and told a story at Yale.
  2. I published my first comic book with Double Take. 
  3. I performed in my first one hour one-man show (twice).
  4. I began consulting professionally on screenplays and pilot scripts.
  5. I taught storytelling at the University of Connecticut, Kripalu, and in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
  6. I booked weddings for 2016, extending my DJ career into its 20th season.   

I wonder if I should add unexpected goals to my list mid-year when they become a focus of my time and energy. Probably not.

Here are my specific successes and failures from 2015: 

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Survived another year. 

2. Lose 20 pounds.

Fail. I lost a total of six pounds in 2015. 

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.

Done. 

4. Stop drinking soda from two-liter bottles.

The only soda consumed from a two-liter bottle in 2015 came from a bottle brought to my house by a friend and a bottle brought to a picnic. As a result, my Diet Coke consumption plummeted to less than half of what I consumed in 2014.

This was an enormous success.  

5. Practice yoga at least five days a week.

I began practicing yoga in 2015 (and even took a sunrise yoga class while teaching at Kripalu), but a combination of injuries set me back. For about two months, I was practicing every morning, but then a shoulder problem caused me to become inconsistent and stop altogether. I still have that shoulder and (and now) collarbone issue. Both will be looked at by a doctor during the first week of January.

This constitutes a failure in terms of the goal but significant progress in terms of yoga in general. I have gone from thinking it a silly waste of time to something I genuinely want to do.

6. Learn to cook three good meals for my wife.

A failed to accomplish this goal through no fault except my own. 

WRITING CAREER

7. Complete my sixth novel before February 28, 2015.

This was an adjustment of a goal. We sold the book to my editor, and I am on track to finish by my deadline. I consider this a success. 

8. Complete my seventh novel.

Two separate books remain more than half finished. The desire to finish one or both may have been ambitious, but I think it could have happened had I centered my attention on this book and not spread it between books.

In the end, I wrote more than a novel's worth of pages, but I failed to accomplish the goal.    

9. Sell one children’s book to a publisher.

Three picture books are in my agent's hands. I await word. In accordance with the specific description of my goal, this was a fail. 

10. Sell a memoir to a publisher.

This book is in the hands of my editor. I await word. In accordance with the specific description of my goal, this was a fail. 

11. Sell a book of essays to a publisher.

This book is in the hands of my editor. I await word. In accordance with the specific description of my goal, this was a fail. 

12. Complete a book proposal for a book on storytelling.

I am two sample chapter away from completing this book. As a result, this is a fail.

13. Write a new screenplay.

The new screenplay is outlined, and a rough draft has begun, but it is not finished. This is a fail.

14. Write 50 pages of a new memoir about the years of 1991-1993.

Done! This book became the book of essays that my agent now has in her hands. As a result, this goal is complete.

15. Write a musical for a summer camp.

Done! I was lucky enough to see it performed onstage in July. 

The musical that we wrote for last year's summer camp (Caught in the Middle) will be produced in 2016 at schools and other venues in the Hartford area.  

16. Publish at least one Op-Ed in a physical newspaper.

Done! I published an Op-Ed in the Hartford Courant in July on why I choose to write in McDonald's restaurants.

I also published an Op-Ed in the Hartford Courant in November about my high school girlfriend, Laura, and a promise I failed to keep. 

My dream is to land a weekly column at a newspaper like the Hartford Courant before they disappear forever, but this is probably a hard gig to get. 

17. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

I submitted one of my short stories to a student magazine in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and it was accepted. As a result, this is a fail. 

18. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

I adopted one behavior for a week (backing into parking spaces) and have yet to finish the piece about this experience. This is a fail.

19. Build an author mailing list.

Done.

20. Build a new website for matthewdicks.com

Done.  

STORYTELLING

21. Produce a total of eight Speak Up storytelling events.

Done! We produced a total of 12 shows in 2015. 

22. Deliver my fourth TED Talk.

Done twice over.

The recording for TEDxBU was released in August. One of the cameras did not record my talk, and the other started recording about two minutes late. The recording is disappointing and useless.

 I have the worst TED luck ever.

I also spoke at my fifth TED event in November at TEDxBerkshires. The video for this talk is posted online and came out well.

23. Build a website for Speak Up.

Done.

24. Attend at least 10 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

Done! I attended three Moth StorySLAMs in December (Oberon in Boston, Housing Works in NYC, and The Bitter End in NYC). I told stories in two of the three shows. This brings my total number of Moth events attended in 2015 to 27. 

25. Win at least two Moth StorySLAMs.

Done twice over! My total number of wins in 2015 was four.   

I won a StorySLAM at Housing Works in December. 
I won a StorySLAM at The Bitter End in October.  
I won a StorySLAM at The Bell House in Brooklyn in August.
I won a StorySLAM at Oberon in Cambridge back in April.

I also placed second six times, which will drive a man crazy.

26. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

Done twice over!

I won the New York GrandSLAM at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in April and June.    

I also had three second place finishes.  

27. Launch at least one podcast.

Done! Boy Vs. Girl is eight episodes in and going strong. 

NEW PROJECTS

28. Pitch at least three new projects to two smart people.

Done! Sadly, nothing has come from any of my pitches.  

29. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

Fail.

MISCELLANEOUS

30. Enroll in the final class needed for certification as a high school English teacher.

I stopped seeking this goal in April once I decided that I would not want to teach at the high school level. It is a purposeful fail. 

31. Set a new personal best in golf.

I tied my personal best but failed to beat it.

32. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month

Done. 

New Years resolutions: 2015

The following are my New Years resolutions for 2015.

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For the first time, I have placed my resolutions in categories to help me keep them in order in my mind. I’ve also sought reasonability in my resolutions this year, since there are more than ever before.  

As always, I reserve the right to alter the list for up to one week after posting. Suggestions are still welcome.

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Recommended by a friend a couple years ago. Still valid today and deserving of the first spot on the list.

2. Lose 20 pounds.

Since my first weight goal in 2010, I have lost a total of 48 pounds. Another 20 is ambitious, but it would get me down to my high school weight, and I’m willing to try to make that happen.

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.

I’ve accomplished this goal for three years in a row, but it’s not exactly automatic, so it remains on the list.

4. Stop drinking soda from two-liter bottles.

My plan is to reduce my intake of Diet Coke. My original plan was to eliminate all soda consumption in the home, but this would cause problems when I bring a cup of soda home from McDonald’s or on the rare occasions that my wife brightens my day with one. Eliminating the two liter bottle will reduce my soda consumption considerably but still allow for the occasional soda brought in from a restaurant or 7-11. 

It will also save me approximately $500 per year in soda costs.

I plan to add a glass of orange juice to my mornings as well, to replace the Diet Coke that I normally start my day by drinking. 

5. Practice yoga at least five days a week.

I’m currently not practicing yoga because of an unrelated shoulder injury, but as soon as I get approval from my physical therapist, I will resume.

6. Learn to cook three good meals for my wife.

The only meal that I am capable of cooking for Elysha at this time is macaroni and cheese and hot dogs, which is amazing but not very impressive. I want to be able to cook three meals for her that she loves by the end of the year.

WRITING CAREER

7. Complete my sixth novel before the end of the summer 2015.

The book is about half finished, and I like it a lot. It shouldn’t be hard to finish it by the end of this coming summer.

8. Complete my seventh novel.

This unconventional novel is nearly finished but requires a great deal of polish and assembly. I may be able to finish it by the end of the summer as well.

9. Sell one children’s book to a publisher.

I have three written and ready to go. We will pitch soon. I have two new ideas that I like a lot, so I will work on them in 2015 as well. 

10. Sell a memoir to a publisher.

The memoir is written and is being polished now.

11. Sell a book of essays to a publisher.

The book is written and will go to editors in January.

12. Complete a book proposal for a book on storytelling.

I’m in the process of writing a book on storytelling, modeled a bit after Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part how-to. I think I have some important and helpful things to say about the art of storytelling, and I’m excited about this book.

13. Write a new screenplay.

I wrote my first screenplay last year. I am revising it now based upon film agent’s notes. I plan to write another in 2015. 

14. Write 50 pages of a new memoir about the years of 1991-1993.

I have 25 badly written pages for this memoir that must be transformed into 50 good pages in 2015.

15. Write a musical for a summer camp

Camp begins in July. My partner and I broke the story this week. Now all I have to do is write the whole damn thing.

16. Publish at least one Op-Ed in a physical newspaper.

My real goal is to land another column in a magazine, newspaper, or online publication this year, but I’m keeping this goal more reasonable.

17. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

I could’ve been more ambitious and make it a goal to get one of these short stories published, but I’ve decided to recognize the effort as significant enough with this goal, particularly because I don’t know how good these short stories are.

18. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

A suggestion by a reader that appealed to me.

My first idea: Backing into a parking spot. I rightfully assume that anyone backing into a parking spot is a lunatic of the highest order. I shall spend a week backing into parking spots and see what wisdom I can glean.

Others (I have lots of ideas) will follow. 

19. Build an author mailing list.

This is apparently a big deal. Email drives sales. Builds my author platform. All the experts agree. And we sell out every Speak Up event on the strength of our mailing list alone, so I guess I’ll do it.

20. Build a new website for matthewdicks.com

This is a much needed reboot of my website. My current website was designed by a professional, which means it was excellent at the time but I can’t do a thing with it. If I build this one myself, I’ll be able to update and change at will.

STORYTELLING

21. Produce a total of eight Speak Up storytelling events.

We produced eight shows in 2014, so this is a conservative total, especially given that we will have produced four by April, but I would be happy with eight and ecstatic if there were more.

22. Deliver a TED Talk.

I’ve had some bad luck in terms of TED Talks over the past two years.

I did a TED Talk at the AT&T Conference Center in 2013 that went extremely well, but technical difficulties made the audio on the recording almost indiscernible.

I did a TED Talk at Western Connecticut State University in 2013 that went flawlessly, but the college students who hosted the conference never posted the recording online.

I did a TED Talk in April of 2014 in Somerville, Massachusetts that also went well, but my 15 minute talk was accidentally put on a nine minute timer, which forced me to dump sections of my talk on the fly and speak faster than I would’ve liked. The talk was good, but it was not exactly what I had planned. There was room for improvement.

Let 2015 be the year that I am able to deliver an outstanding TED Talk with zero technical difficulties.

23. Build a website for Speak Up.

Elysha and I have been slow to build a website, simply because we have sold out every show. But as outside venues reach out to us and the media makes inquiries, a website has become a necessity.

24. Attend at least 10 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

I attended 15 Moth events in 2013, so this number is more than reasonable.

25. Win at least two Moth StorySLAMs.

I won one slam in 2011.

I won two slams in 2012.

I won seven slams in 2013.

I won five slams in 2o14.

Winning two slams in 2015 is a reasonable goal.

26. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I won my first GrandSLAM in 2013 after eight tries and six second place finishes. I’ll probably be competing in three or four GrandSLAMs in 2015, so this goal isn’t completely unreasonable.

27. Launch at least one podcast.

This was a 2012 and 2013 goal that I have yet to complete.

NEW PROJECTS

28. Pitch at least three new projects to five smart people.

I have many ideas and not as much time as I would like. In 2015, I would like to move some of these ideas forward by partnering with smart people who are willing to do at least half of the work required to make these things a reality. Basically, I want to work with smart, motivated people. I seem to have a bounty of these kinds of people in my life. I will begin reaching out.

29. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

I intend on hosting an evening of Shakespeare. Friends will join us around the table to read a Shakespearean play aloud, with each person assuming a different role. I already have a group of people who have agreed to attend.

MISCELLANEOUS

30. Enroll in the final class needed for certification as a high school English teacher. 

31. Set a new personal best in golf.

My lowest score for nine holes is a 45, and my lowest score for 18 holes is 95. I’d like to improve on either score in 2015.

32. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.

Outsourcing and crowdsourcing my New Year’s resolutions: Any suggestions for me?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably know that I take my goal setting and New Year’s resolutions very seriously. Since 2010, I’ve posted my resolutions on my blog, and at the end of every month, I post my progress or lack thereof.

Two years ago, I came upon a piece in the Wall Street Journal on New Year’s resolutions that suggests that outsourcing your resolutions may improve your ability to achieve them.

Most of us could use help achieving our goals. Who better to tell us how to improve ourselves than someone who knows us well—perhaps better than we know ourselves—and even may be all too happy to offer up some tough love? And if we promise to check in regularly with this person to discuss our progress, we’ll probably do a much better job of keeping our resolutions.

“We all have blind spots, but the people we are intimate with can see through them,” says David Palmiter, a couples therapist and professor of psychology at Marywood University, in Scranton, Pa. A loved one can encourage us to meet our goals and hold us accountable when we slip, he says.

I had always asked a select group of friends to suggest goals for my upcoming year, but after reading this piece, I thought it might be a good idea to open up my goal selection process to anyone who might want to participate. I’ve been doing this for the past two years.

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So if you’d like to suggest a goal for me in 2015, I would love to hear your ideas. Please note that this does not guarantee that I will adopt every suggested goal, but I will seriously consider all that are submitted.

Also note that all goals must be empirically measurable, so a goal like “Be less of a jerk-face” cannot be included in my list of resolutions (even if it’s a valid suggestion) because there is no way for me to determine if the goal was met.

But you’re welcome to tell me to stop being a jerk-face at any time if you’d like.

Not need to wait until the end of the year to make that request.

Submit your suggestions by commenting on this post or emailing me at matthewdicks@gmail.com.

Resolution update: September 2014

In an effort to hold myself accountable, I post a list my New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of each month, along with their progress (or lack thereof).

1. Don’t die.

Still kicking.

2. Lose ten pounds.

Seven down and three to go.   

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.

Done.

4. Launch at least one new podcast.

Author Out Loud, my first podcast, is still yet to launch (and therefore still not my first). Once we have that podcast running smoothly, we can think about adding a second podcast.

Progress so far: I have selected an online service to redesign my website,  which would allow me to post podcast online, which will allow me to actually make my podcast.

I’ve also secured a commitment from a cohost for that second podcast.

5. Complete my sixth novel before the end of the summer 2014.

Work on this book finally recommenced this month.  

6. Complete my seventh novel.

Work continues.  

7. Sell one children’s book to a publisher.

Three manuscripts remain in the hands of my agent. I await word on their fate. Work began on a fourth.

8. Complete a book proposal for my memoir.

The proposal for a memoir comprised of the about three dozen of my Moth stories is complete. It will be sent to editors for their consideration later this month.

Work also continues on a memoir that focuses on the two years that encompassed my arrest and trial for a crime I did not commit. These two years also include an armed robbery, the onset of my post traumatic stress disorder, my period of homelessness, and the time I spent living with a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It was a memorable two years.

I’m also writing another memoir about this current season of golf. Since I haven’t played enough golf this summer, I plan to stretch it so that it encompasses the entire year rather than just the summer.  

Work also began on a new book which is part memoir and part how-to.

9. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

Nothing scheduled yet.   

10. Write a screenplay.

Done! In the hands of my agent.

11. Write at least three short stories.

Nothing. I still hate this goal.

12. Write a collection of poetry using existing and newly written poems.

My agent has spoken. Not only does poetry not earn any money, but she doesn’t think my poetry is worth my time in terms of time and money. She encouraged me to send some of my better poems to journals and contests, which I may do at some point.

13. Become certified to teach high school English by completing one required class.

Still one class and $50 away from completion. My wife is actively looking for a place online where I can complete this relatively obscure requirement.

14. Publish at least one Op-Ed in a physical newspaper.

My second column in Seasons magazine publishes this month.

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I still await word from a major online magazine about a pitch that I made last month.   

I also published a piece in The Cook’s Cook, a magazine for aspiring food writers and recipe testers. You can read the April-May issue here.

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None of these are Op-Eds in a physical paper. Please ignore that fact in the event I need to use these publishing credits in order to claim that I have completed my goal.

15. Attend at least 10 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

I attended a Moth StorySLAM in New York in September but was not called to the stage. It brings my total number of events for the year to 13.

16. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I have competed in five GrandSLAMs in 2014 in New York City and Boston, finishing second three times. When I didn’t finish in second place, I was  forced to tell my story from first position (the kiss of death).

It’s all terribly annoying.  

I have another GrandSLAM in New York in November, and that may be my last chance at a championship for 2014.   

17. Give yoga an honest try.

My friend, who is a yoga guru, has agreed to give me a lesson.

18. De-clutter the basement.

Progress continues at a constant, slightly less than glacial, pace.

19. De-clutter the shed

Done! I dislodged a mouse family, filled the back of my truck with junk, and now I have an empty, organized shed.  

20. Conduct the ninth No-Longer-Annual A-Mattzing Race in 2014.

No progress.

21. Produce a total of six Speak Up storytelling events.

Done! Our September show (one of our best ever) was our sixth of the year, and we have additional shows planned for October at The Mount in Lennox, MA and December at Real Art Ways

22. Deliver a TED Talk.

I delivered a TED Talk in March at Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville, MA.

I have also been contacted about speaking at two other TED conferences in the fall and am still awaiting word on my pitches.

23. Set a new personal best in golf.

Nothing close to a personal best last month. But I beat my friend, Jeff, for only the third time in my life, which was great.

24. Find a way to keep my wife home for one more year with our children.

We still don’t know how we will afford this, but we made the decision to keep Elysha at home for one more year with our son.

25. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.

Done.