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. 

Resolution update: January 2015

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Done! So far…

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I have gained two pounds in 2015, which means I need to lose 22 pounds in 2015. Well done, Matt.  

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

Done. I added a plank every morning as well.

4. Stop drinking soda from two-liter bottles.

I drank soda from two-liter bottles on two occasions in January:

  1. My wife’s not-a-surprise party (thanks to a friend’s stupidity)
  2. A bottle purchased for my mother-in-law and left in the refrigerator

The results of this goal have already been extraordinary. First, I’m drinking an enormous amount of water in place of the soda. Also, I’m finding myself drinking less soda at work and in other locations as well.

My soda intake has already been cut at least in half.  

5. Practice yoga at least five days a week.

My shoulder injury is healed enough to resume yoga, though I may need a refresher course from my instructor. It’s been five weeks since I last practiced, and I can barely remember the routine. But I have a yoga mat now. That’s something.

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

No progress

WRITING CAREER

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

The book remains about half finished. I’m polishing a memoir before I return to it.

8. Complete my seventh novel.

The book remains about half finished as well.

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

I have three written and ready to go. I had two new ideas that I liked a lot heading into 2015, and this month, I added a third that Elysha likes best of all. I’ll be working on them in 2015. We will submit a book to editors at some point soon.

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 in the hands of editors now. We should know if it will sell sometime next month. You can keep your fingers crossed for me.

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

The outline of the book is nearly complete. I’ll need to write some sample chapters and do all the other tedious jobs that go into developing a proposal, but progress is being made, and I’m excited.

13. Write a new screenplay.

I’m still revising my first screenplay based upon film agent’s notes. To be honest, I’m stuck on the solution to a problem in the story.

No progress on the new one.  

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. No progress yet.

15. Write a musical for a summer camp

I’ve written about 5,000 words so far and deleted about 4,700. I haven’t been able to lock in tone or voice yet. My partner has written three songs, so as usual, he is waiting on me. 

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

I published a piece in the Huffington Post this week. This, however, is not a physical paper.

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

No progress.

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

I have created a list of ideas for this resolution now.

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.

I have not begun this experiment yet.

19. Build an author mailing list.

Major progress made! I actually went to the MailChimp website, learned how to manage my subscriptions and send email, and sent my first author email to my list of about 900 people. I’d been gathering email addresses for more than two years and had never done anything with them, so the first step was to invite anyone who didn’t  want to be on my list to unsubscribe. Between unsubscribers and dead email addresses, I lost about 200 people

My list is now lean, mean, and ready for next month’s email.

Now I must find ways to increase subscribers and provide compelling content to keep them engaged.    

20. Build a new website for matthewdicks.com

I paid a consultant to discuss the redesign of my website and other aspects of my author platform, and it went well. While I would love to continue to manage my website through WordPress, I’m leaning toward migrating things over to SquareSpace, which has a considerably lower learning curve. But I’m hemming and hawing on this. Any thoughts?

STORYTELLING

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

No shows produced in January. We have two shows scheduled in February and recently formalized a partnership with the Connecticut Historical Society that will bring two shows to their venue in 2015.

22. Deliver my fourth TED Talk.

I will be delivering a TED Talk at Boston University in April.

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23. Build a website for Speak Up.

Same hemming and hawing about my author website has held this up as well.

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

I attended a Moth StorySLAM at Housing Works in NYC in January. 

25. Win at least two Moth StorySLAMs.

I came in third in the most recent Moth StorySLAM after having my name drawn first from the hat. First sucks. I have won from first position once in my life, but that was in Boston, so it doesn’t really count. I’ve never seen anyone else win from first position, though I have heard that it has happened before.

I don’t believe it.   

26. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I compete in my first GrandSLAM of 2015 next month.

27. Launch at least one podcast.

We have decided to cross over to the dark side and purchase an Apple computer in order to make this process as simple as possible (and make the recording of Speak Up shows easier as well). We await the arrival of this machine. My website redesign must also be completed in order for this to begin.  

NEW PROJECTS

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

I pitches one of my projects to one person in January, who had some great suggestions for me to move forward.

29. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

Nothing scheduled yet.

MISCELLANEOUS

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

No progress. 

31. Set a new personal best in golf.

Two feet of snow is hindering the pursuit of this goal. It is not stopping my friend from sending me photos from the golf course in Florida.

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.