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I heard the recent report of a Nepali team reaching the summit of K2, the world’s second highest peak, during winter. A magnificent achievement of incredible difficulty!

But, of course, the lurking question is: Why bother?

“Because it’s there”

— George Mallory, 1924, on summiting Everest

Not everything can be measured in quantifiable terms.

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I tend to avoid conflict. There, I said it.

But problems and disagreements do arise. We can blast social media with our opinions and viewpoints, all perfectly valid of course. 

The problem is when it gets personal: I’m trying to move forward, and someone is blocking my path or otherwise giving me anxiety.

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There have been a whole lot of distractions lately! I’ve had a tough time getting back to what’s important in the new year.

And this picture is so incredibly appropriate to me and the topic! I couldn’t resist. OK, Carl, get back on track.

I have a “short list” of weekly topics sitting in front of me, and that really helps. It has a handful of tasks that I need to pay attention to. And I found it important that this is on an actual sheet of paper on my desk, not hidden in a window that I’ll probably cover up.

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As we roll into a new year, we have an opportunity to look at things with fresh eyes. Of course we all know that there’s little that’s actually special just because it turned to January, so it’s mostly a mental game we play with ourselves.

But mental games matter – a lot!

And because we’re all going through this experience together, momentum tends to grow at a faster rate. So it’s time to take advantage of this

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After a big event or a holiday, it can be tough to get your energy focused back on what you need to get done. Actually, that’s the way you know a holiday was valuable: you were able to shift to other things for a while, and it’s kinda tough getting back in the groove.

I took a good long holiday break this Christmas, so I’m experiencing that now. It’s actually a good feeling.

But now I have to get focused again.

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I see the world as an abundant place. In a real sense, we’ve never had more possibilities open to us.

Even though it can feel like there are lots of restrictions in our lives right now, that’s only relevant to certain dimensions. You’re still free to go out there and reinvent your products, form new relationships, even rethink the norms of your industry.

And that’s a great mindset for starting out with a blank slate, as I discussed last week.

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Sometimes it’s better to wipe the slate clean.

Not that you’re ACTUALLY going to do that most of the time. This is a mental exercise, intended to open up possibilities and get your imagination going again.

Usually we take actions based on current relationships, current priorities, and what’s happening right now. Which is fine – stuff needs to get done. But you may never get to planning for a better future.

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For most of us, 2020 was a brutal year. I’m hopeful that 2021 will be better, but it’s going to be a slow improvement, likely with many false starts and surprises.

So how do we remain optimistic in an environment like this? It’s about the learning.

Challenges, problems and failures provide a richer learning environment than when things go well. I find that a bit annoying, but it’s true. It’s about being observant and thoughtful despite the emotional turmoil of things not going according to plan.

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2020 was so sad because of limitations on physical gatherings. I know many organizations which have cancelled holiday parties and celebrations as a result.

It’s the wrong way to think about it.

Sure, you can’t do what you’ve traditionally done, and it’s disappointing. But the real question is: what can you do with available resources?

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We laid my mother to rest recently. Given that it’s 2020, we weren’t able to have a proper funeral, and had a short outdoor service with extended family on Zoom.

It wasn’t the ideal. But you know what? It was plenty good, and respected everyone’s limitations.

That’s what this whole year has been about. Making the best of what we have. And if you think about it, this is nothing new. We’re always making tradeoffs.

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