New Year’s Resolutions 2008

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” – Benjamin Franklin

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but I need to start so everyone can see if I’m full of hot air. Here’s my list:

1. Get more exercise

In a paper titled “Why we get fat”, Arthur Devany proposes that as human beings evolved in an environment where food was scarce and required a lot of work to acquire, the best evolutionary approach was to eat as much as you could when food was readily available and to use as little energy as possible to reduce your caloric output. Now that food is cheap and modern life requires zero physical exertion, our evolutionary strategy is broken. To stay healthy, we will have to overrule our evolved instinct. Keeping physical activity fun and interesting is the key to getting regular exercise, especially if our natural tendency is to avoid unnecessary work. If we can trick ourselves into having fun with our health, the results should improve. Maybe through exer-gaming, maybe through collecting exercise data if you like numbers, maybe by combining exercise with something else you enjoy like audiobooks or chatting with friends.

As I hope to live to see my 100th birthday, I need to take care of myself.

2. Write more and work to get better at it

I get frustrated when I have trouble expressing a particular thought. I admire and envy people who can express their thoughts in a way that is clear, interesting, and enjoyable to read. My personal writing goal is depth, clarity, and concision. To do this, I will use this blog. If you read anything you like or dislike or if you have any tips, please let me know.

3. Make new friends. Be a better friend. Put more work into relationships.

“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” – Don Corleone, The Godfather (1972)

My social life could use some work. I have a tendency to avoid social situations where there is a potential for discomfort and I have been reluctant to meet new people since I have lived in Dallas. Rather than improving the quality of social interaction, this has resulted in a self-imposed exile. In 2008, I will get out more and will work on being better company by sharing more of myself and my attention.

4. More ideas. Bigger ideas. Realize ideas.

Neil Gabler’s biography of Walt Disney blew me away. Disney’s vision is inspiring to anyone who wants to do something Big before they die. Walt Disney was not just a pioneer in animation and business. His influence on American culture is so pervasive that it is largely unknown or forgotten by most people. On the flip side, Disney’s example reminded me of how little I have accomplished in 30 years. If I don’t get busy now, I will miss an opportunity to do something important with my life; something of lasting significance and value to the world. Ideas and plans are important, but in the end all that matters is what you do and how well you do it.

5. Increase income by 100%. Invest more and better. Use money in the service of larger goals.

While Greed is bad, money is the distillation of value. It is a means to an end and necessary in achieving big things. The more access to money you have, the more you can do. I am disappointed when I read about billionaires and the ways they spend their money. It is a waste that so many focus on boring things like material possessions or physical enjoyment when they could be inventing new products or changing human life forever. Their idea of lasting accomplishment is a foundation in their name. Who will build our modern cathedrals? Who will invent our next revolution? Who will inspire the next generation?

In reading about Walt Disney, the one thing that struck me is how much he did with little. At most times in his life, he wanted to do a lot more than he could support with the revenue from his company. Most Disney films took years to produce and often the studio lost money. Disney struggled constantly with financing new projects, but he did more with what he had than almost anyone I can think of.

Either you bootstrap yourself or you borrow money from others to create your vision. At this point in my life, I am focusing on turning myself into an efficient cash-generating machine. Not for greed or material comfort, but to enable free action and the ability to do something worthwhile.

On the investing front, I have done a pretty good job. I save and invest regularly using scheduled drafts from my accounts on a weekly basis. I have zero debt aside from what I put on the Amex each month. I do need to improve my revenue and I do need to contribute more to charity.

6. Read more. Share what I’ve learned.

I’ve been reading more lately, but I need to get better at sifting and sharing what I’ve learned. Having a library nearby has been a real pleasure. I keep an Amazon wishlist of books available at the local library.

If I think of any more resolutions, I will let you know. If you have any resolutions of your own, I would like to read them. Please leave a link in the comments if you want someone to hold you to it.

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