Resolution update: January 2018

Note: I've added a goal since posting my 2018 goals on January 1:

Pitch a new Moth Mainstage story to the artistic director of The Moth. 

I've had the honor of performing two stories on Moth's Mainstages over my career. I'd like to pitch another story to them in 2018.

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

The AFC championship game got pretty intense, and a strange man in the stands at Gillette Stadium kept massaging my shoulders, but I survived, and happily, so did the Patriots . 

2. Lose 20 pounds.

Four pounds down. At this rate I'll be 48 pounds lighter by the end of the year and resemble something of a dish rag.

Fear not. I always start the year out strong. 

3. Eat at least three servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day. 

I had three servings of fruits and/or vegetables on 21 of 31 days in January.  

4. Do at least 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and 3 one-minute planks for five days a week.

Done. 

5. Identify a yoga routine that I can commit to practicing at least three days a week.

No progress.

6. Stop using the snooze button.

Done. And I must tell you, I feel so much better when I climb out of bed when that first alarm sounds or I simply wake up. The allure of ten more minutes in bed is strong, but the refreshed feeling of rising immediately is better.  

WRITING CAREER

7. Complete my seventh novel before the end of 2018.

I'm in the process of proofreading my next book and revising my next novel for the US and my next novel for the UK, so the launch of this novel has not yet commenced. 

8. Complete my second middle grade/YA novel.

I'm in the process of proofreading my next book and revising my next novel for the US and my next novel for the UK, so the launch of this novel has not yet commenced. 

9. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

No progress. 

10. Write a proposal for a memoir.

No progress. Once proofreading and revisions are complete, my agent and I will discuss which of these memoir ideas should be written first.

11. Write a new screenplay.

No progress.

12. Write a musical.

Initial talks for the plot, characters, number of songs, and deadlines have begun.

13. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

No progress. 

14. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

No progress. 

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

No progress.

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

No progress. I'm also looking for possible behaviors to adopt. Suggestions welcomed. 

17. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 2,000.

63 subscribers added in January. I'm off to a roaring start. 

18. Write at least six letters to my father.

None written in January.

19. Write 100 letters in 2018.

No letters written in January. Finishing a book was a priority. 

20. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress.  

21. Record one thing learned every week in 2018.

Done! My favorite from January:

In 1950, the city of Guadalajara moved a telecommunications building 10 feet in order to widen a city street while employees of the telephone company continued working inside. Also inside the building were the wife and son of Jorge Mantute, the architect of the move. They were positioned in the building to demonstrate Mantute's faith in the safety of the telecommunication workers. 

Today a statue of Mantute stands in his honor. 

PushingTelmex.JPG

STORYTELLING

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

We produced one show in January at Infinity Hall in Hartford. 

23. Deliver a TED Talk.

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

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

I did not attend a Moth event in January. I was scheduled to attend two, but poor weather and an Elysha illness kept me home. 

25. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

No progress. 

26. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I am competing in a Moth GrandSLAM in February. 

27. Produce at least 25 episodes of our new podcast Storyworthy. 

No progress.

28. Perform stand up at least four times in 2018. 

No progress.

I am performing standup twice in February, including my first paid performance.

29. Pitch my one-person show to at least one professional theater.

No progress.  

30. Pitch a new Moth Mainstage story to the artistic director of The Moth. 

NEW PROJECTS

31. Write a syllabus for a college course on teaching. 

No progress. 

32. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2018.

No progress. 

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

No progress. 

MISCELLANEOUS

34. Pay allowance weekly.

Done!

35. Ride my bike with my kids at least 25 times in 2018.

No progress. 

36. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2018. 

Done. I spent 21 days at the gym (including the locker room) in January, and I did not hear a single comment related to sexually assaulting women.  

37. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

Done. I've also encouraged my students to adopt the same policy, at least while in the classroom.

38. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2018.

No progress. 

39. 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.

I looked into the cost of this project. Yikes!    

40. Clean the basement. 

I threw away 11 items in January in preparation for a full cleaning later this year.  

41. Set a new personal best in golf.

No progress. 

42. Play poker at least six times in 2018.

I was forced to cancel a planned game in January because weather moved an event onto my poker night. I also planned on playing at a Patriots tailgate but ended up talking and eating for the entire time. 

I have a game scheduled for February.

43. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

No progress.   

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

Done.

New Years Resolutions 2018

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.

I tried to lose 20 pounds in 2016 but only lost 8.
I tried to lose 20 points in 2017 but only lost 8. 

Since my first weight goal in 2010, I've lost a total of 62 pounds. Another 20 is ambitious, but it would get me down to my high school weight. I’m willing to try to make that happen.

3. Eat at least three servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day. 

Readers and friends proposed this goal to me more than any other. 

4. Do at least 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, and 3 one-minute planks for five days a week.

I’ve accomplished this goal for five years in a row, but it’s not exactly automatic, so it remains on the list. I've also added planks to the list. 

5. Identify a yoga routine that I can commit to practicing at least three days a week.

This is an adjustment on a failed goal from last year. Rather than committing to actually doing yoga all year long, my goal is to simply find a routine that works for me.

Small steps.  

It's important. Flexibility is important. It'll supposedly help my golf game and other stuff, too.

6. Stop using the snooze button.

I may not sleep as many hours as most, but I am a huge supporter of productive, efficient, and effective sleep. To that end, I avoid many of the pitfalls of restful sleep. I don't watch television or read in bed. We use a white noise machine when we sleep. I go to bed and wake up on a fairly regular schedule.

I take sleep seriously.  

As a result, I am able to fall asleep about 30 seconds after my head hits the pillow, and I sleep throughout the night without waking. While I may sleep two or three fewer hours than most, I don't waste a second in bed. Every moment is spent sleeping.

I am also keenly aware that the snooze button is bad for you. There is a lot of science behind this fact. Despite this science, I have been known to snooze, but the time for the snooze button has come to an end. In 2018, I will stop using the snooze button altogether. When my alarm goes off (or I just naturally wake up, which often happens), I will immediately get out of bed and start my day. 

WRITING CAREER

7. . Complete my seventh novel before the end of 2017.

With novel #5 slated to publish in January of 2018 and novel #6 already complete, it's time to begin the next one. My goal is to complete the first draft by the end of the year.

8. Complete my second middle grade/YA novel.

With my first middle grade novel set to publish in late 2017/early 2018, it's time to begin my second one. My goal is to complete the first draft by the end of the year.

9. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

I wrote three picture books in 2015.  
I wrote another three in 2016. 
In 2017, I started but did not finish four picture books in 2017.

I haven't sold any of them. So far. 

My goal for 2018 is to finish the year with five more completed picture books. This can include books that I began in 2017 but didn't finish and/or brand new ones.

At least one must feature a non-white, non-male protagonist. 

10. Write a proposal for a memoir.

I have a completed memoir that could be used to achieve this goal. I also have two partially written memoirs that could also be used. My agent and I will decide upon the best manuscript, and then I will write a proposal. 

Hopefully we can find an editor or three that like it. 

11. Write a new screenplay.

I failed to write a screenplay in 2016 and 2017 after writing my first in 2015.

I intend to write at least one in 2018. This could include a television pilot, which I might be writing with a partner.

12. Write a musical.

For the last three years, I have written musicals for a local summer camp with my composer and lyricist, Andy Mayo. One of those musicals was produced by a children's theater company in 2016.

In 2012 Andy and I 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. 

Andy and I have committed ourselves to another musical for the local summer camp for 2018, and I also wrote the first scene of a new adult musical. My goal is to write one musical, though I may write two. 

13. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

A completed goal from 2017 that I will repeat in 2018.

In 2017, I published three pieces in Parents magazine, in additional to my quarterly column in Seasons magazine. Not bad, but I'd still like to get my first piece in The New York Times in 2018.

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

14. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

I have several ideas for books on education that I would like to write. I'm actually in the process of writing one now. If my agent approves, I'll write a proposal in 2018 and hope that an editor likes my ideas. 

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

A completed goal from 2017 that I will repeat in 2018.

None of the publishing outlets accepted my short stories (still waiting on two to respond), but I will try again in 2018.

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

In 2016, I wrote about backing into parking spots, daily affirmations, and bottle flipping.

In 2017, I wrote about prayer, cold showers, and talking to strangers.

I've actually adopted one of these behaviors (cold showers) and realized that I was already doing another (talking to strangers).

Though my opinion of most of these activities didn't change, it was a useful experiment each time, so I'll repeat this in 2018.

17. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 2,000.

I grew my list by 29% in 2016 and 25% in 2017. If I grow the list by another 25% in 2018, I will hit my goal of 2,000 subscribers.

I may be unrealistic in this goal.  

18. Write at least six letters to my father.

A completed goal from 2017 that I will repeat in 2018.

My father and I have been writing sporadic letters to each other since 2013. Since we speak little, it's been a great way to get to know a man who disappeared from much of my life at the age of eight. I intend to write to him every other month with the hope that he will write to me on my off months.  

19. Write 100 letters in 2018.

The plan is to write a letter (paper, envelope, and stamp) every three days or so, to students, colleagues, friends, family, and anyone else who is deserving of praise, gratitude, recognition, or the like. It's a way of making a day a little brighter for another person that appeals to me a lot. 

20. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

A failed goal from 2017.

I wrote a blog during the first eight years of my children's lives. I stopped writing in December of 2015. Though I've considered resuming the writing, I would like to have the content already created preserved in a physical form. There are services that can do this work, but I want it done well. Edited. Photos positioned appropriately on the page. Videos removed. I'm willing to hire someone to produce this or find another way to have it done well.  

21. Record one thing learned every week in 2018.

This is an idea stolen from a blogger who has done this for the past two years. His lists are fascinating. I made the mistake in 2017 of setting the goal of one item learned each day, so this became more of a chore, and the list is not inspiring. 

By recording one item per week, I'm hoping to generate an equally fascinating list to share at the end of 2018. 

STORYTELLING

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

We produced 3 shows in 2013, 8 shows in 2014, 12 shows in 2015, 17 shows in 2016, and 17 shows in 2017.

An even dozen shows in 2018 is a reasonable goal. 

23. Deliver a TED Talk.

I’ve had some bad luck in terms of TED Talks.

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.

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. Huzzah! 

I did a TED Talk in January of 2016 in Natick, MA, that also went very well. The recording is excellent. Huzzah!

I did a TED Talk in April of 2016 at The Country School in Madison, CT, repeating that first TED Talk that didn't get recorded well in 2013. I had to hold a microphone, which complicated things a bit, and there was no timer, so I had to rush in fear of going long. I'm still not entirely satisfied with the talk. I'd like to repeat it again under optimal circumstances.  

I did a TED Talk in May of 2017 at the Pomfret School. Again, I had a handheld mic and no timer. Still, I thought it went well but could be better.  

It looks like I may be speaking at the upcoming TEDx conference at Wesleyan in 2018. Nothing is confirmed yet, and if it doesn't happen, then I'll have to begin pitching again to make this happen.

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

I attended 27 Moth events in 2015, 26 events in 2016, and 20 events in 2017, so this number is more than reasonable.

25. 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 four slams in 2015.
I won five slams in 2016.
I won five slams in 2017.

Three wins feels ambitious for 2018, but since 2011, I've competed in 62 Moth StorySLAMs and won 30 (a 48% win rate). 

If I compete in at least 10 StorySLAMs in 2018, I should be able to win at least three based upon previous percentages. This goal depends upon the decisions of others, but competing in StorySLAMs just isn't enough to justify the goal. 

26. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I won one GrandSLAM in 2014.
I won two GrandSLAMs in 2015.
I won one GrandSLAM in 2016.
I failed to win a GrandSLAM in 2017.   

I had four opportunities to compete in GrandSLAMs in 2017 but was unavailable each time. Hopefully the calendar will be kinder to me in 2018. 

This goal also depends upon the decisions of others, but competing in GrandSLAMs is a forgone conclusion and just isn't enough to justify the goal. 

27. Produce at least 25 episodes of our new podcast Storyworthy. 

Elysha and I are launching a new storytelling podcast in early 2018 to coincide with the launch of my book Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life Through the Power of Storytelling (available now for preorder). 

I'm excited. Elysha is funny, insightful, and charming, and I'm just lucky to have her. Together we are going to listen to a story each week and then critique the story, highlighting things that the storyteller has done exceptionally well and areas of opportunity to improve the story. We'll also offer strategies and tips, share storyworthy moments from our lives, offer a peak into the storytelling world, answer listener questions, and banter. 

We plan to produce one episode per week, so the goal of 25 episodes leaves us a lot of room for error. 

28. Perform stand up at least four times in 2018. 

I performed stand up for the first time in 2017. It went much better than I expected. 

In 2018, I intend to perform at least four times. 

29. Pitch my one-person show to at least one professional theater.

I wrote my one-man show in 2017, and I performed a loose version of it twice in conjunction with my teaching of storytelling.

In 2018, I'd like to begin the process of performing my one-man show in its purest form in a professional theater. 

NEW PROJECTS

30. Write a syllabus for a college course on teaching. 

In 2017, I discussed the idea of a college course with several local professors, and all agreed that it would be a valuable addition to their program. I don't know if I'll find a university interested or the time to teach a class like this, but I want to be prepared if the opportunity arises. 

31. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2016.

A failed goal from 2017 that I will attempt in 2018.

32. 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.

In 2016, I tried to plan a reunion but was unable to secure a venue. 

In 2017, I tried to plan a reunion but was unable to secure a venue.

I'd like to make this happen in 2018. 

MISCELLANEOUS

33. Pay allowance weekly.

My kids receive a weekly allowance, but I am not consistent with the payment of their allowance. More often than not, I'm paying them every month or two, which defeats the purpose. This will require me to have cash available on Sunday nights, so I'll need to establish a routine to make this happen.

34. Ride my bike with my kids at least 25 times in 2018.

I haven't put my kids on their bikes often enough. Part of this has to do with Charlie's age, but after watching my brother get hit by a car while riding his bike as a kid (and being partially responsible for the accident), I've always been nervous about riding with other people. I don't worry about my own safety, but I worry constantly about the safety of others.

I'm going to change this in 2018.

35. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2018. 

Bragging about sexual assault or lying about sexually assaulting women in an effort to gain favor with other men is conversation that I have never heard in any of the many lockers rooms that I have occupied in my life. I've never actually heard any man brag about such things with the exception of Donald Trump. I will continue to listen closely in 2018 to determine if I am simply living a unicorn's life or if our President-elect's claim of "locker room talk" is also a lie.   

This was a goal accomplished in 2017, and I considered dropping it in 2018, but readers asked that I continue to do this, so I shall. 

36. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

In 2016, I avoided all negative comments related to a person's physical appearance.

In 2017 I avoided all comments, positively or negatively, about the physical appearance of any person save my wife, children, and in laws in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

I achieved this goal, and by writing about it, I convinced at least eight other people (just added one this month) to adopt the policy as well. For this reason, I will repeat this goal in 2018, even though it's now simply become something I do.  

37. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2016.

A completed goal from 2017 that I will repeat in 2018. 

38. 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, 2016, and 2017 that I am continuing to pursue because these windows are making me crazy.    

39. Clean the basement. 

This was a completed goal from 2014 that needs to be repeated because it has filled up again. 

40. Set a new personal best in golf.

A failed goal from 2017.

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 2018.

41. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

A completed goal in 2017 that I am repeating in 2018.

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 very good poker player who stopped playing regularly in 2015 because of the time shifted to writing and storytelling.

I missed poker a great deal and brought it last year. Six games in 2018 is not an unreasonable goal.  

42. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

A completed goal in 2017 that I will repeat in 2018.

Bengi and I met in a Milford, MA McDonald's back in 1987, and we have been friends ever since. We once lived together (in the aforementioned Heavy Metal Playhouse) and started our DJ business together back in 1996. We have been through a great deal together, but in the last few years, we have seen less of each other even though we live 15 minutes apart. Our interests have shifted away from the thing each likes to do, but that's no excuse for not getting together more often. Six days is more than reasonable.  

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

Resolution update: 2017 in review

In 2017, I completed 29 of 41 goals for a success rate of 71%. This is by far my most successful year since I started recording goals in 2010 and beats my previous five year average of 53% by quite a bit. 

My previous year success rates:

2010: 44%
2011: 62%
2012: 30%
2013: 60%
2014: 60%
2015: 59%
2016: 59%

I had some areas of great success in 2017. I performed especially well in the areas of writing (10 out of 14 goals completed) and storytelling (6 out of 8 completed). 

While I'm pleased with the overall results, there were some missed opportunities. My biggest disappointments were my failure to lose 20 pounds, my failure to write a new screenplay, and my failure to launch a new podcast.

Those were very doable in 2017. 

There were also a few pathetic failures.

I failed to write a new screenplay. I failed to finalize any details for our Heavy Metal Playhouse 25 year reunion. I didn't cook a single meal for Elysha. 

These were not difficult goals to achieve or at least get started.

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

  1. I was paid to perform at venues in Boston, Kansas City, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, and various points throughout Connecticut. 
  2. I expanded my roster of clients with whom I consult for on screenplays, pilot scripts, pubic speaking, and TED Talks. The roster now includes politicians, university professors, and several entities in the healthcare industry.  
  3. I taught storytelling and public speaking at Yale University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Hartford, Central CT State University, Northeastern University, Miss Porter's School, The Berkshire School, The Oxford School, and Farmington High School. I also booked three more workshops (including a weeklong workshop) at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and another week at Miss Porter's School. 
  4. I worked with union organizers in Kansas City to help low wage restaurant workers tell their stories and performed a benefit show for them. 
  5. I taught storytelling to priests, rabbis, ministers, and to the administrators of South Windsor Public Schools.  
  6. I booked weddings for 2018, extending my DJ career into its 22nd season.   

Here are my specific successes and failures from 2017: 

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

I didn't die a single time this year. I can't actually say that for every year of my life.  

SUCCESS 

2. Lose 20 pounds.

Two more pounds gained in December, bringing total weight loss for the year to 8 pounds.

FAIL

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

SUCCESS

4. Practice yoga at least three days a week for at least 15 minutes each day.

I participated in a full week of yoga while teaching at Kripalu back in August. That was the extent of my yoga experience in 2017.

FAIL

5. Take the stairs whenever I am ascending or descending five flights or less.

SUCCESS

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my sixth novel before the end of 2017.

SUCCESS    

7. Complete my first middle grade/YA novel.

SUCCESS   

8. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

I launched four picture book projects in 2017 but failed to bring any to completion. 

  • A non-fiction picture book about the great Idaho beaver airlift of 1948 (nearly complete). 
  • A series of picture books about real life, often forgotten heroes (pitch in progress)
  • A picture book about the primitive life before cellphones (early stages)
  • A children's book with a non-white male protagonist called Pink Stinks (early stages)

FAIL

9. Complete a book on storytelling.

It publishes on June 12, 2018. Huzzah! Preorder here. 

SUCCESS  

storyworthy.jpg

10. Write a new screenplay.

No progress. Extenuating circumstances related to my former film agent admittedly played a role, but this was certainly doable.

FAIL

11. Write a musical.

"Back in the Day" written and produced in June 2017.

SUCCESS

12. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I submitted four pieces to the New York Times Op-Ed page in December, bringing my total submissions to five. Sadly, nothing was accepted for publication. 

SUCCESS  

13. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

Note-taking completed. Sample chapters being written, but proposal is not complete.

FAIL

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

Three submitted in December. Awaiting word of possible publication. 

SUCCESS

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 April praying to God at least once a day. Quite often three or more times per day. As you may know, I'm a reluctant atheist, so I hadn't prayed in a very long time. 

In October, I followed James Altucher's suggestion about turning the water ice cold for the last few seconds of your shower. It sounds crazy, but science suggests it really might make you more productive for the rest of the day. 

I spent the month of November speaking to one stranger per day. 

SUCCESS

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,600.

I grew my list by 32 subscribers in December (and 328 overall this year). Total subscribers now stands at 1620.

SUCCESS

17. Write at least six letters to my father.

I sent my sixth letter to my father a week before Christmas. 

SUCCESS 

18. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress. I was unable to locate someone willing to do the work. I also didn't try hard enough.

FAIL

19. Record one thing learned every day in 2017.

Done! My favorite thing learned in December is this:

In Silicon Valley, startups that result in a successful exit have an average founding age of 47 years.

I also realized that the man who inspired me to engage in this activity records one thing learned each week as opposed to each day. His list, not surprising, is much more interesting than mine and probably less of a chore to complete. 

SUCCESS

STORYTELLING

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

We produced a show at the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford in December, bringing our total number of Speak Up events in 2017 to 17.

SUCCESS 

21. Deliver a TED Talk.

I spoke about the important things that teachers do at The Pomfret School in April. 

SUCCESS

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

I attended two Moth StorySLAMs in December at Housing Works in Manhattan and Oberon in Cambridge, bringing my yearly total of Moth events to 20. 

SUCCESS

23. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

I won five StorySLAMs in 2017 (including winning one and tying for first in another in December). Three were won in New York and two were won in Boston.

My win total now stands at 34.

SUCCESS

24. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I had three chances to compete in a Moth GrandSLAM in 2017 and was unavailable every time. As a result, I was unable to even try to achieve this goal. 

FAIL

25. Produce at least 50 episodes of my new podcast Live Better.

I pulled down my first episode after receiving feedback from a friend who works in radio. That same friend has agreed to build me a template for the show. No progress yet.

FAIL

26. Perform stand up at least once in 2017. 

I performed a five-minute set at Sea Tea Comedy in downtown Hartford in November.

SUCCESS

27. Write a one-person show.

The "writing" for this show is complete. I performed the show at Kripalu, altered slightly so I could teach lessons between stories. 

SUCCESS  

NEW PROJECTS

28. Explore the option of teaching a college class.

I met with three professors at two local colleges  and described my proposed class. All approved of my idea, and two promised to pass the information onto their department heads.    

SUCCESS

29. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2017.

I cooked no meals in 2017.

FAIL

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

Serious attempts were made to secure a venue, but no luck.

FAIL 

MISCELLANEOUS

31. I will stand in vocal opposition to every negative comment made about age disparities between male and female romantic couplings because I choose to respect a woman’s choices of romantic partner regardless of their age or the age of their partner.

No opportunities in December.

SUCCESS 

32. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2017.   

Over the course of the month, I heard no man bragging about sexually assaulting women in any locker rooms (or anywhere else for that matter) and reported on this via social media. 

SUCCESS

33. I will stop presenting the heteronormative mother-and-father paradigm as the default parental paradigm when speaking to my children and my students.

Not as hard as I thought. I switched over to "parents" in January and haven't slipped yet.   

SUCCESS 

34. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

Easily accomplished. I've also learned that at least seven other people have adopted this policy, which thrills me. It should be everyone.    

SUCCESS

35. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2017.

I surprised Elysha with a membership to Winding Trails, a local recreation area that we have been waiting to join for over a year, bringing my total number of surprises to six.

SUCCESS

36. 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.

Our windows were cleaned by professionals, but this does not count. 

FAIL

37. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

Apple TV and Amazon Prime are alive and well in our home, thanks to Elysha.

SUCCESS 

38. Set a new personal best in golf.

I managed to tie my personal best early in the season. I never came close after that.

FAIL

39. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

A surge in poker in November and December brought my total games played to six.

SUCCESS 

40. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

Four days spent working as DJ's at weddings. 

One day spent watching a video of a trip to Florida circa 1993. 

One dinner together.

SUCCESS

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

SUCCESS

I talked to a stranger every day for a month. Here is what happened.

One of my yearly goals was to select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences.

Back in May, I prayed twice a day, every day, for a month, to see what might happen.

In October, I took a cold shower for a month. I'm still doing it today. 

In November,  on the advice of Jessica Stillman, I spoke to one stranger in a meaningful way every day for a month. Being married to a woman who speaks to random strangers (and befriends them constantly), I wondered what might happen if I did the same. 

meet-new-people.png

The results were shocking. 

It turns out that I speak to a stranger almost everyday already. 

I had no idea.  

Between teaching, performing, producing Speak Up shows, coaching storytellers, teaching workshops, working out at the gym, and moving through my regular life, I meet new people all the time. Constantly. 

And not just a simple hello. These are actual conversations. Names exchanged. Ideas shared. Connections made.  

In fact, there were only six days in November when I had to actively seek out a stranger, and in each case, it was not hard. Three times I approached a parent in my school who I did not know. I introduced myself and inquired about their children. 

I also spoke to a man in the waiting room of a doctor's office (we discovered that we had a friend in common), a man in line at a highway rest area, and a new employee at a McDonald's restaurant (where I know many of the employees already). 

I can't say that I'm anything like Elysha. She has, on more than one occasion, made a lifelong friend in line at a Starbucks, a doctor's office, or a waiting room. She meets a mother at the playground or an attendant in a parking garage, and next week they are eating dinner in our home. 

Last week, while purchasing our Christmas tree, I turned my back for a second to deal with the kids. In that time, Elysha had introduced herself to the salesperson, told him about my writing career, explained Speak Up, passed on a business card, and Lord knows what else. 

I talk to strangers.
Elysha befriends strangers.  

Still, it was a useful exercise. Before November, I had always viewed myself as entirely unlike my wife when it came to strangers. I thought I was an isolationist. Reticent. A loner. A guy who already had enough friends. 

Not even close. My life, it turns out, is filled with new and interesting people. I may not drag these strangers home with me like Elysha does, but it turns out that I am not the isolationist I thought myself to be. 

Setting goals for 2018

I've begun the process of choosing goals for 2018. It's a process that takes about a month because the decisions that I make now will in part shape the coming year for me. 

If you have any suggestions for goals that are worthy of pursuing, please feel free to let me know. Suggested goals have been a staple of my planning for years, and many have been adopted, so fire away!

And if you're looking to accomplish more in 2018, I encourage you to begin thinking about goals now, too. You don't need to post them on the Internet like I do, but setting and revisiting goals throughout the year has been an integral part of my life for a long time, and it's helped a great deal.

Oddly, my monthly updates are some of my most popular blog posts. For whatever reason, people enjoy reading about my success and failure.

Probably just my failure.

But start planning now. You shouldn't decide upon your goals or resolutions in a day or two. Put some thought into them. Make it a meaningful process. Try to set goals that you have some control over. 

For example, one of my goals for this year was to submit five pieces to the New York Times Op-Ed page. This is a better goal than, "Get published by the New York Times Op Ed page" because I have much more control over the former than the latter.

I admittedly don't do this with every goal. Sometimes I like to apply pressure to myself, particularly in areas of expertise. This year, for example, I set a goal of winning three Moth StorySLAMs. A better goal might have been to compete in X number of Moth StorySLAMs, but having won 32 of them, I didn't mind applying a little pressure to myself in this area.

Happily, I won four StorySLAMs in 2017, exceeding my goal. 

Also, don't be afraid of failure. In the past 6 years, my success rates have been:

2010: 44%
2011: 62%
2012: 30%
2013: 60%
2014: 60%
2015: 59%

Not stellar. A 52.5% average.  

But I'm comfortable with the failure because I know I am setting meaningful, challenging goals. I want to be pushing myself at all times. That would be impossible if the goals I set were easily attained. 

Make 2018 a year when you set goals that put you on the path of making your dreams come true.  

goals.jpeg

Take a cold shower every day.

One of my yearly goals was to select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences.

During the month of October, I took a cold shower every day in order to increase my productivity.

More accurately, I spent the last 30-60 seconds of my shower with the water switched over to cold. 

cold-shower.jpg

The idea is actually backed by science. From a 2016 piece in Inc. magazine by Jessica Stillman:

A 2007 study published by a molecular biologist named Nikolai Shevchuk found evidence that cold showers can help treat depression symptoms, and, if used regularly, might even be more effective than prescription antidepressants,” he writes. How is that possible? In layperson’s terms “cold water can flood the mood-regulating areas of your brain with happy, sparkly neurotransmitters.”

The experience, disagreeable as it might be, thus tends to reduce tension, and improve mood and memory. And aside from these biological changes, a frigid dip in the morning also has powerful effects on your psychology, according to a New York Times piece praising morning cold showers by Carl Richards. Getting into a freezing shower is undeniably hard, he writes, but if you can make yourself do that, what else could possibly daunt you for the rest of the day?

After a month of standing in frigid water for a minute at a time, here is what I can say about this practice:

I think it works. 

I step out of every shower with more energy and alertness than ever before. Rather than feeling warm and relaxed, I feel alert and alive. I feel like I've accomplished something. I'm moving faster, and I feel more energized and excited about whatever is next. 

This feeling is echoed by Brian Tracy in his book on productivity, Eat that Frog

"Starting your morning by tackling challenges head-on will help encourage similar behavior throughout the day. And, it turns out, there's a wealth of research to back up this idea as well. People who do hard things first tend to procrastinate less and get more done."

It's unpleasant, to be sure, but over time, as it becomes a habit, the unpleasantness decreases significantly. By the end of the month, it was just a thing I did, 

If I'm being honest, I can't say if this practice is increasing my productivity throughout the day. There is no way for me to measure the lasting effects of this cold shower. And since I take some of my showers in the evening, I may not be enjoying the full benefit of the practice. But I know that after 60 seconds under the cold water, I exit the shower with a spring in my step and a sharpness of mind, and I like that a lot. 

For the last two years, one of my resolutions has been to adopt behaviors that I fundamentally oppose for a week or more at a time, and I think I've finally stumbled upon one that I will continue, as crazy as it may sound.  

I prayed for a full month. Here is what happened.

One of my yearly goals was to select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences.

Back in May, I prayed twice a day, every day, for a month, to see what might happen.

Would my heart or mind experience a transformation of some kind?
Would my prayers be miraculously answered?
Would God talk back to me?

As a reluctant atheist, it had been a long, long time since I prayed. As a boy, I can remember a period of time when I prayed each night before going to sleep. Oftentimes this took the form of the Lord's Prayer, but at other times I would pray for things I needed or wanted and for the health and security of my family.

I as a teenager, I found myself feverishly praying to a God who I no longer believed in when my girlfriend was late for her period.

I was desperate and decided to hedge my bets.

I also found myself asking God for help in a broom closet in the basement of the Bourne, MA police station back in 1993, but that was not a prayer as much as a question in need of an answer. I still didn't believe in God, but alone and in the dark, facing a monumental decision, I asked a God I did not believe in for an answer, and I may have received one.  

Since those desperate days, I had not uttered a word of prayer in more than 20 years.

During the month of May, I prayed in the morning and evening. I thanked God for all the blessings in my life. Prayed for the good health of my family, the future of our country, and the wisdom and strength to accomplish all that needed to be done on that given day. I even repeated the Lord's Prayer on several occasions.  

The results:

Sadly, I felt nothing in terms of greater spirituality. No sudden awareness of an ethereal being. No connection to the unseen entity to whom I was speaking. Not a hint of additional faith. 

Frankly, I didn't enjoy the praying at all. I felt a little... infantile. Like I was praying to some parental figure who would supposedly, arbitrarily, possibly bestow upon me an infinitesimal bit of his (or her) supposedly infinite power. I felt like prayer was the act of relinquishing control of my life and passing it onto some unseen other, placing my faith and hope for the future in someone else's hands.

I didn't like that. 

As much as I might wish to have faith, perhaps only for the existence of Heaven and something beyond this mortal coil, I wouldn't want to place my future in the hands of a God would may or may not decide to help me. As much as want to believe in a kind and just God (who frankly would be very different from the God of The Bible), I think I prefer to have faith in myself, my friends, and my family over an arbitrary, seemingly disinterested, and maybe even cruel spiritual being. 

I believe in me. I believe in the love of my wife and children. The support of my friends and family. The goodness of my fellow man. 

God would be nice, too, but if his (or her) power is infinite and the world continues to disappoint in so many ways, I can't help but think that we might be better off placing our faith in each other.    

I didn't finish my month of prayer with any greater faith or belief in God, but I might have found an even greater faith in myself and the people around me. Or at least an appreciation of it.  

So not a waste of time after all. 

church sign.jpg

Resolution Update: October 2017

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Still breathing. 

2. Lose 20 pounds.

Two more ponds lost in October, bringing total weight loss to 11 pounds. Another nine pounds in two months during the holidays will be tough.  

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

Done.   

Someone recently doubted that I am still doing these exercises as often as this goal requires, but that person is obviously a jackass with self-esteem issues. 

4. Practice yoga at least three days a week for at least 15 minutes each day.

I participated in a full week of yoga while teaching at Kripalu back in August. It was incredibly boring.

I have done nothing since.  

5. Take the stairs whenever I am ascending or descending five flights or less.

Done. 

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my sixth novel before the end of 2017.

Work continues in earnest. The book was due last month month. I'm closing in on the finish line.   

7. Complete my first middle grade/YA novel.

Work continues in earnest. Due date is December.  

8. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

I'm still working on a non-fiction picture book about the great Idaho beaver airlift of 1948.

I also pitched a series of picture books to my agent. She liked them. Eventually.

I've also begun a picture book about primitive life before cellphones.

9. Complete a book on storytelling.

DONE! We have entered the copyediting portion of the process.  

10. Write a new screenplay.

No progress. This is looking unlikely. 

11. Write a musical.

DONE!

I was not able to watch the debut performance of "Back in the Day" but I hear it went really well. 

12. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I have submitted one piece to the Times so far in 2017. No luck. Also, I suck in terms of this goal.  

13. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

Note-taking completed. My proposal will need to include some sample chapters, so that process has begun. Slowly.  

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

No progress.

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

On the suggestion of a reader:

I spent April praying to God at least once a day. Quite often three or more times per day. As you may know, I'm a reluctant atheist, so I hadn't prayed in a very long time. 

I'll be writing about the experience on my blog this month, which I've been saying every month. 

In October, I followed James Altucher's suggestion about turning the water ice cold for the last few seconds of your shower. It sounds crazy, but science suggests it really might make you more productive for the rest of the day. 

I'll be writing about the results of this experiment later this month.

One to go... Suggestions?

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,600.

I grew my list by just 14 subscribers (my second lowest monthly increase so far) in October (and 256 overall this year). Total subscribers now stands at 1540.

I'm cutting this one close. I need to find 60 subscribers in two months. 

If you would like to subscribe to my newsletter and receive writing and storytelling tips, Internet recommendations, recordings of new stories, and more, you can do so here:

17. Write at least six letters to my father.

Five written so far. 

18. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress. I am willing to hire someone to take the content of the blog and convert it to book format, but I have yet to find that person. 

Recommendations?

19. Record one thing learned every day in 2017.

DONE!

My favorite thing learned in August is this:

The German word kummerspeck means excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.

STORYTELLING

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

DONE!

We produced a show at Infinity Hall in Hartford, bringing our total number of Speak Up events in 2017 to 15. 

21. Deliver a TED Talk.

DONE!

I spoke about the important things that teachers do at The Pomfret School in April.

I've pitched talks to two other TED events. One has rejected my pitch. I still await the other.  

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

DONE!

I attended Moth StorySLAMs in October at Housing Works in NYC and Oberon in Cambridge, MA, bringing my yearly total of Moth events to 17. My name was not drawn at Housing Works, and I placed second at Oberon. 

23. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

DONE!

I won two Moth StorySLAMs in Boston and two in New York in 2017. My win total now stands at 32.

24. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I was unavailable to compete in the Moth GrandSLAM in my three chances in 2017.

Hoping for one more shot before the end of the year.

25. Produce at least 50 episodes of my new podcast Live Better.

I pulled down my first episode after receiving feedback from a friend who works in radio. I'm currently re-recording with a slightly different format.

That same friend has agreed to build me a template for the show. Obviously 50 episodes will be impossible this year, but if I successfully re-launch the podcast, I will be satisfied. 

26. Perform stand up at least once in 2017. 

I attended the open mic at Sea Tea Comedy Theater in August, not realizing how many comics regularly perform during these open mic nights. Elysha and I arrived about an hour late, and there were 19 comics already on the list. I will return on November 20 and perform to complete this goal. 

27. Write a one-person show.

DONE!

The "writing" for this show is complete. I performed the show at Kripalu, altered slightly so I could teach lessons between stories. 

I'll begin the process of booking a theater for a formal performance now.  

NEW PROJECTS

28. Explore the option of teaching a college class.

I met with a professor from a local college and described my proposed class. She approved of my idea and promised to pass the information onto her department head.    

This isn't enough, of course. I need to speak to a department head or higher myself. 

29. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2017.

A friend has passed on ideas and recipes for meals that I plan to make. So far I have done nothing.

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

The search for a location continues, though I am getting frustrated by the lack of forward momentum. 

MISCELLANEOUS

31. I will stand in vocal opposition to every negative comment made about age disparities between male and female romantic couplings because I choose to respect a woman’s choices of romantic partner regardless of their age or the age of their partner.

Nothing to stand against in October. 

32. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2017.   

DONE! 

Over the course of the month, I heard no man bragging about sexually assaulting women in any locker rooms (or anywhere else for that matter). This included the locker room at my gym and a locker room at a golf club.  

33. I will stop presenting the heteronormative mother-and-father paradigm as the default parental paradigm when speaking to my children and my students.

DONE!

Not as hard as I thought. I switched over to "parents" in January and haven't slipped yet.     

34. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

DONE. 

I've also learned that at least seven other people have adopted this policy, which thrills me.    

35. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2017.

I "surprised" Elysha with a new washing machine in October, which is to say I was in the process of buying us a new washing machine when she decided to start the process herself. So I told her, "Surprise! I'm already doing it." Then she promptly took over the process. 

Five surprises so far in 2017. 

36. 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.

Our windows were cleaned by professionals, but this does not count. 

37. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

DONE!

Apple TV is alive and well in our home, thanks to Elysha. 

38. Set a new personal best in golf.

Not even close in September, even though I am definitely getting better.

39. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

THREE poker games in October, bringing this goal into reach! 

40. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

Four days spent working as DJ's at weddings in total.

I invited him to attend another Moth StorySLAM and a Patriots game in October. 

He declined.   

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

DONE!

Resolution update: September 2017

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Alive and kicking. 

2. Lose 20 pounds.

Weight loss has commenced with the end of the summer. I've lost nine pounds in all so far, including three pounds in September. It will be hard to lose another 11 in the last three months, but I'll try like hell. 

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

Done.   

Someone recently doubted that I am still doing these exercises as often as this goal requires, but that person is obviously a jackass with self esteem issues. 

4. Practice yoga at least three days a week for at least 15 minutes each day.

I participated in a full week of yoga while teaching at Kripalu back in August. 

It was incredibly boring.

Still, my friend has a routine for me. I'm going to learn it and do it. 

5. Take the stairs whenever I am ascending or descending five flights or less.

Done. With the exception of a trip to the 19th floor of a building, no elevators for me in September. 

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my sixth novel before the end of 2017.

Work continues in earnest. The book is due this month. I'm closing in on the finish line.   

7. Complete my first middle grade/YA novel.

Work continues in earnest. Due date is December.  

8. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

I'm still working on a non-fiction picture book about the great Idaho beaver airlift of 1948.

I also pitched a series of picture books to my agent. She liked them. Eventually.

I've also begun a picture book about primitive life before cellphones.

9. Complete a book on storytelling.

DONE! My editor has returned my manuscript for edits, and I've seen drafts of possible cover art. All very exciting. 

10. Write a new screenplay.

No progress. This is looking unlikely. 

11. Write a musical.

DONE!

I was not able to watch the debut performance of "Back in the Day" but I hear it went really well. 

12. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I have submitted one piece to the Times so far in 2017. No luck.  

13. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

Note-taking completed. My proposal will need to include some sample chapters, so that process has begun. Slowly. 

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

No progress.

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

On the suggestion of a reader:

I spent April praying to God at least once a day. Quite often three or more times per day. As you may know, I'm a reluctant atheist, so I hadn't prayed in a very long time. 

I'll be writing about the experience on my blog this month. 

This month I will be following James Altucher's suggestion about turning the water ice cold for the last few seconds of your shower. It sounds crazy, but science suggests it really might make you more productive for the rest of the day.

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,600.

I grew my list by just 12 subscribers (my lowest monthly increase so far) in September (and 242 overall this year). Total subscribers now stands at 1526.

I'm cutting this one close.  

If you would like to subscribe to my newsletter and receive writing and storytelling tips, Internet recommendations, recordings of new stories, and more, you can do so here:

17. Write at least six letters to my father.

I wrote two letters to my father in September. Five in all so far. The last one resulted in his attendance at the annual family picnic. An added bonus.      

18. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress. I am willing to hire someone to take the content of the blog and convert it to book format, but I have yet to find that person. 

Recommendations?

19. Record one thing learned every day in 2017.

DONE!

My favorite thing learned in August is this:

Ted Cruz and Scott Walker used the phrase "Make America Great Again" in their speeches and received cease-and-desist letters from Trump, who tradmarked the phrase in 2012

STORYTELLING

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

DONE!

We produced a show at Real Art Ways and a salon show at the East Hartford Public Library, bringing our total number of Speak Up events in 2017 to 14. 

21. Deliver a TED Talk.

DONE!

I spoke about the important things that teachers do at The Pomfret School in April.

Here is the recording. I still haven't watched it myself:

I've pitched talks to two other TED events. One has rejected my pitch. I still await the other.  

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

DONE!

I attended a Moth StorySLAM in September at The Once Ballroom in Somerville (where I did not perform but FOUR of my storytelling students took the stage and one of them won!) and a Moth StorySLAM in Flushing (where I took the stage and won), bringing my yearly total of Moth events to 15. 

IMG_7157.JPG

23. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

DONE!

I won two Moth StorySLAMs in Boston and two in New York in 2017. My win total now stands at 32.

24. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I was unavailable to compete in the Moth GrandSLAM in September, making it the third time that I was forced to pass on competing this year because of scheduling.

Hoping for one more shot before the end of the year.

25. Produce at least 50 episodes of my new podcast Live Better.

I pulled down my first episode after receiving feedback from a friend who works in radio. I'm currently re-recording with a slightly different format.

That same friend has agreed to build me a template for the show. Obviously 50 episodes will be impossible this year, but if I successfully launch the podcast, I will be satisfied. 

26. Perform stand up at least once in 2017. 

I attended the open mic at Sea Tea Comedy Theater in August, not realizing how many comics regularly perform during these open mic nights. Elysha and I arrived about an hour late, and there were 19 comics already on the list. I will need to return next month and perform to complete this goal. 

27. Write a one-person show.

DONE!

The "writing" for this show is complete. I performed the show at Kripalu, altered slightly so I could teach lessons between stories. 

I'll begin the process of booking a theater for a formal performance now.  

NEW PROJECTS

28. Explore the option of teaching a college class.

I met with a professor from a local college and described my proposed class. She approved of my idea and promised to pass the information onto her department head.    

This isn't enough, of course. I need to speak to a department head or higher myself. 

29. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2017.

A friend has passed on ideas and recipes for meals that I plan to make. So far I have done nothing.

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

The search for a location has stalled.

MISCELLANEOUS

31. I will stand in vocal opposition to every negative comment made about age disparities between male and female romantic couplings because I choose to respect a woman’s choices of romantic partner regardless of their age or the age of their partner.

I defended another attack on the Melania/Donald Trump marriage based upon their age difference on my podcast. On the record. Thanks a lot, Rachel. 

You can imagine how hard it was for me to come to the defense of that man. 

32. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2017.   

DONE! 

Over the course of the month, I heard no man bragging about sexually assaulting women in any locker rooms (or anywhere else for that matter). This included the locker room at my gym and a locker room at a golf club.  

33. I will stop presenting the heteronormative mother-and-father paradigm as the default parental paradigm when speaking to my children and my students.

DONE!

Not as hard as I thought. I switched over to "parents" in January and haven't slipped yet.     

34. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

DONE. 

I've also learned that at least seven other people have adopted this policy, which thrills me.    

35. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2017.

I surprised Elysha with a specially designed teeshirt with the words "Ruth & Hillary & Michelle & Oprah." written down in front. 

Four surprises so far in 2017.  I currently have one surprise in the works for her.

36. 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.

Our windows were cleaned by professionals, but this does not count. 

37. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

DONE!

Apple TV is alive and well in our home, thanks to Elysha. 

38. Set a new personal best in golf.

Not even close in September, even though I am definitely getting better.

39. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

No progress. This annoys me so much. I love to play poker. How have I failed to get a game going? 

40. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

Four days spent working as DJ's at weddings in total.

I invited him to attend a Moth StorySLAM and to watch a football game with me.

He declined.   

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

DONE!

Resolution update: August 2017

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Not even close to death in August.

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I remain stuck at six pounds lost. The summer is so full of good food. 

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 for at least 15 minutes each day.

I participated in a full week of yoga while teaching at Kripalu. I believe that yoga can do wonders for me. Improve my golf game and my quality of life.

It's just so boring.

Still, my friend has a routine for me. I'm going to learn it and do it. Maybe with headphones.  

5. Take the stairs whenever I am ascending or descending five flights or less.

DONE!
This was a pain in the ass, by the way, because my room at Kripalu was on the fourth floor, which meant a lot of stairs many times during the day.  

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my sixth novel before the end of 2017.

Work continues in earnest. Due date in has been moved back to October. I'm closing in on the finish line.   

7. Complete my first middle grade/YA novel.

Work continues in earnest. Due date is December.  

8. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

I still working on a non-fiction picture book about the great Idaho beaver airlift of 1948.

I also pitched a series of picture books to my agent. She liked them. Eventually. They may be better as a series of graphic novels.    

9. Complete a book on storytelling.

DONE!

10. Write a new screenplay.

No progress.

11. Write a musical.

DONE!
I was not able to watch the debut performance of "Back in the Day," but I hear it went really well. 

12. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I have submitted one piece to the Times so far in 2017.

No luck.  

13. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

Note-taking completed. My proposal will need to include some sample chapters, so that process has begun.  

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

No progress.

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

On the suggestion of a reader:

I spent April praying to God at least once a day. Quite often three or more times per day. As you may know, I'm a reluctant atheist, so I hadn't prayed in a very long time. 

I'll be writing about the experience on my blog this month. 

I'm currently looking for my next behavior. Ideas anyone?

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,600.

I grew my list by 43 subscribers in August (and 230 overall this year). Total subscribers now stands at 1514.  

If you would like to subscribe to my newsletter and receive writing and storytelling tips, Internet recommendations, recordings of new stories, and more, you can do so here:

17. Write at least six letters to my father.

I wrote one letter to my father in August. Three in all so far.      

18. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress. I am willing to hire someone to take the content of the blog and convert it to book format, but I have yet to find that person. 

Recommendations?

19. Record one thing learned every day in 2017.

DONE!

My favorite thing learned in August is this:

Amazon was originally named "cadabre" from abracadabra until it was mistaken as "cadaver." He also considered relentless.com, which still redirects to Amazon.

STORYTELLING

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

DONE!
We produced a show at Infinity Hall in Norfolk, CT, in August. We also produced showcases at the University of Connecticut Law School and Kripalu Institute for Yoga and Health as a part of our bootcamps. bringing our total number of Speak Up events in 2017 to 12. 

21. Deliver a TED Talk.

DONE!
I spoke about the important things that teachers do at The Pomfret School in April.

Here is the recording. It's actually been used by principals in at least two schools as a part of their professional development. 

I've pitched talks to two other TED events. One has rejected my pitch. I await the other.  

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

I attended one Moth StorySLAM in August at The Bell House in Brooklyn in August, bringing my yearly total to 13. I did not get chosen to perform that night. 

23. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

DONE!
I won two Moth StorySLAMs in Boston and one in New York. My win total now stands at 31.

24. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I am unavailable to compete in the Moth GrandSLAM in September, making it the third time that I am forced to pass on competing this year because of scheduling.

Hoping for one more shot before the end of the year.

25. Produce at least 50 episodes of my new podcast Live Better.

I pulled down my first episode after receiving feedback from a friend who works in radio. I'm currently re-recording with a slightly different format.

That same friend has agreed to build me a template for the show. Obviously 50 episodes will be impossible this year, but if I successfully launch the podcast, I will be satisfied. 

26. Perform stand up at least once in 2017. 

I attended the open mic at Sea Tea Comedy Theater in August, not realizing how many comics regularly perform during these open mic nights. Elysha and I arrived about an hour late, and there were 19 comics already on the list. I will need to return next month and perform to complete this goal. 

27. Write a one-person show.

DONE!
The "writing" for this show is complete. I performed the show at Kripalu, altered slightly so I could teach lessons between stories. 

I'm going to begin the process of booking a theater for a formal performance now.  

NEW PROJECTS

28. Explore the option of teaching a college class.

I met with a professor from a local college and described my proposed class. She approved of my idea and promised to pass the information onto her department head.    

This isn't enough, of course. I need to speak to a department head or higher myself. 

29. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2016.

A friend has passed on ideas and recipes for meals that I plan to make. So far I have done nothing.

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

The search for a location continues.

MISCELLANEOUS

31. I will stand in vocal opposition to every negative comment made about age disparities between male and female romantic couplings because I choose to respect a woman’s choices of romantic partner regardless of their age or the age of their partner.

I defended an attack on the Melania/Donald Trump marriage based upon their age difference. 

You can imagine how hard that was for me.

32. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2017.   

DONE! 
Over the course of the month, I heard no man bragging about sexually assaulting women in any locker rooms (or anywhere else for that matter). This included a locker room at the gym, a locker room at Kripalu, and two different locker rooms at golf clubs.  

33. I will stop presenting the heteronormative mother-and-father paradigm as the default parental paradigm when speaking to my children and my students.

DONE!
Not as hard as I thought. I switched over to "parents" in January and haven't slipped yet.     

34. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

I tweeted a comment on the ugliness of Donald Trump. My reference was meant to describe his heart and soul, but it was misconstrued as a comment on physical appearance. 

I'll need to be more careful about my choice of words. 

I've also learned that at least seven other people have adopted this policy, which thrills me.    

35. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2016.

I surprised Elysha with cards hidden around the house while I was away in August

Three surprises so far in 2017.  I currently have two surprises in the works for her. I'm so excited about one of them!

36. 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.

Our windows were cleaned yesterday, but this does not count. 

37. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

We upgraded our cable television interface to a voice activated, much more intuitive system that may fit the requirements of a streaming service. This upgrade is tremendous. Credit Elysha for the upgrade as well as the reduction in our cable/Internet bill as well.  

One of my anniversary presents is her promise to get the Apple TV working, which would complete this goal.  

38. Set a new personal best in golf.

I shot a 47 for nine holes last Monday morning, but it was an executive course. I was 11 over for the round.

Later, I snuck onto a public course and played a par-3 three times AND BIRDIED THE HOLE EVERY TIME.  

I've got my swing back, thanks to my friend, Andrew, and his excellent coaching. I think I have a real shot at topping my best score this fall.

39. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

No progress. This annoys me so much. I love to play poker. How have I failed to get a game going? 

40. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

Four days spent working as DJ's at weddings in total.

I invited him to attend a Moth StorySLAM with me again.

He declined.   

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

DONE!

Resolution Update: July 2017

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Foul ball nearly clocked me in the head at a minor league baseball game, but my cat-like reflexes save me.   

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I remain stuck at six pounds lost. The summer is full of good food. 

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 for at least 15 minutes each day.

I participated in two yoga classes while working at Kripalu in May. I return to Kripalu next month for a full week. Perhaps I'll take a class every day and get started.  

5. Take the stairs whenever I am ascending or descending five flights or less.

I took the elevator in a parking garage with Elysha. We were four flights up, and I thought about asking her to take the stairs with me, but it was hot and we were running late. 

Otherwise, it's been the stairs every time. 

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my sixth novel before the end of 2017.

Work continues in earnest. Due date in has been moved back to October.   

7. Complete my first middle grade/YA novel.

Work continues in earnest. Due date is December.  

8. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

I started work on a non-fiction picture book about the great Idaho beaver airlift of 1948.

I also pitched a series of picture books to my agent. She liked. Eventually. They may be better as a series of graphic novels.    

9. Complete a book on storytelling.

Work almost complete. 

10. Write a new screenplay.

No progress.

11. Write a musical.

Done! I was not able to watch the debut performance of "Back in the Day," but I hear it went really well. 

12. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I have submitted one piece to the Times so far in 2017.

No luck.  

13. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

Note-taking completed. My proposal will need to include some sample chapters, so that process has begun.  

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

No progress.

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

On the suggestion of a reader:

I spent April praying to God at least once a day. Quite often three or more times per day. As you may know, I'm a reluctant atheist, so I hadn't prayed in a very long time. 

I'll be writing about the experience on my blog this month. 

I'm currently looking for my next behavior. Ideas anyone?

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,600.

I grew my list by 28 subscribers in April (and 187 overall this year). Total subscribers now stands at 1,471.  

If you would like to subscribe to my newsletter and receive writing and storytelling tips, Internet recommendations, recordings of new stories, and more, you can do so here:

17. Write at least six letters to my father.

I wrote one letter to my father in July. Two in all so far.      

18. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress. 

19. Record one thing learned every day in 2017.

Done! My favorite thing learned in July is this:

Highway signs have sides equal to the hazard ahead. Railroads have circles (infinite number of sides) because getting hit by a train really sucks. Stop signs are octagons because running one also sucks. 

STORYTELLING

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

No shows in July. Our total number of Speak Up shows in 2017 is nine.

21. Deliver a TED Talk.

Done! I spoke about the important things that teachers do at The Pomfret School in April. It went well! Hoping the producers recorded the talk well, and it will result in a quality video. 

I've pitched talks to two other TED events. 

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

I attended three Moth events in July (two StorySLAMs in NYC and one in Boston), bringing my yearly total to 12.

23. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

Done! I won a Moth StorySLAM in Boston in July. It was my third win of the year and 31st win overall. I placed second at a Moth StorySLAM in NYC and failed to get selected at the third slam.

24. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

It looks like my next opportunity to compete in a Moth GrandSLAM will be in September.  

25. Produce at least 50 episodes of my new podcast Live Better.

I pulled down my first episode after receiving feedback from a friend who works in radio. I'm currently re-recording with a slightly different format.

I expect to relaunch this summer. I may have a producing partner. 

26. Perform stand up at least once in 2016. 

August 21. Sea Tea Comedy Theater. I'm kind of terrified.  

27. Write a one-person show.

The "writing" for this show is nearly complete. 

A local theater is interested in having me perform. I'll be meeting with the director in the summer. 

NEW PROJECTS

28. Explore the option of teaching a college class.

I met with a professor from a local college and described my proposed class. She approved of my idea and promised to pass the information onto her department head.    

This isn't enough, of course. I need to speak to a department head or higher myself. 

29. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2016.

A friend has passed on ideas and recipes for meals that I plan to make this month. 

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

The search for a location continues.

MISCELLANEOUS

31. I will stand in vocal opposition to every negative comment made about age disparities between male and female romantic couplings because I choose to respect a woman’s choices of romantic partner regardless of their age or the age of their partner.

French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron's wife Bridgette Macron is 25 years older than him and recently in the news when Trump told her that she was in good shape. As a result, she was in the public eye for a bit, and in two cases, I had to interject when one woman and one man commented negatively on the age gap between the couple.  

32. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2017.   

Done. 

Over the course of the month, I heard no man bragging about sexually assaulting women in any locker rooms (or anywhere else for that matter).  

33. I will stop presenting the heteronormative mother-and-father paradigm as the default parental paradigm when speaking to my children and my students.

Done. Not as hard as I thought. I switched over to "parents" in January and haven't slipped yet.     

34. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

I had many negative thoughts about the physical appearance of Chris Christie in July (due to some questionable actions on his part) but refrained from making any of them.  

I've also learned that at least seven other people have adopted this policy, which thrills me.    

35. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2016.

Two surprises so far in 2017.  Flowers and a Cadbury Egg. I have two surprises in the works for her currently. 

36. 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.

We've hired someone to clear our windows, but this does not count. 

37. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

We upgraded our cable television interface to a voice activated, much more intuitive system that may fit the requirements of a streaming service. This upgrade is tremendous. Credit Elysha for the upgrade as well as the reduction in our cable/Internet bill as well.  

One of my anniversary presents is her promise to get the Apple TV working, which would complete this goal.  

38. Set a new personal best in golf.

I shot a 48 for nine holes on Sunday, which is one stroke off my best round ever. Things are starting to come together with my new grip and swing. I also tied with my friend, Andrew, with the 48, which was both satisfying (he shot a 37 the previous week) and frustrating (so close to beating him). 

39. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

No progress. This annoys me so much. I love to play poker. How have I failed to get a game going? 

40. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

Four days spent working as DJ's at weddings in total.

I invited him to attend a Moth StorySLAM with me tonight. He declined.   

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

Done!

Resolution update June 2017

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Broken wisdom tooth. Ear infection. And tonight, I nearly fell off the stoop carrying an air conditioner. The universe was out to get me last month, but still alive and kicking.  

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I gained two more pounds in June, mostly due to illness (aforementioned ear infection and dental surgery) that kept me from the gym and ice cream, bringing the total loss for the year to six pounds.

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 for at least 15 minutes each day.

I participated in two yoga classes while working at Kripalu in May. Not exactly meeting the goal. 

5. Take the stairs whenever I am ascending or descending five flights or less.

I took the elevator to and from my dental surgery. Absolute terror kept me from remembering on the way up, and thanks to powerful drugs, I have no recollection of coming down.

Otherwise, it's been the stairs every time. 

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my sixth novel before the end of 2017.

Work continues in earnest. Due date in has been moved back to October.   

7. Complete my first middle grade/YA novel.

Work continues in earnest. Due date is December.  

8. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

I started work on a non-fiction picture book about the great Idaho beaver airlift of 1948.

I also pitched a series of picture books to my agent. She liked. Eventually.   

9. Complete a book on storytelling.

Work continues in earnest. Due date in July.

10. Write a new screenplay.

No progress.

11. Write a musical.

Done! I will attend the table reading of the show, "Back in the Day," today, and it will be performed next Saturday.

12. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I have submitted one piece to the Times so far in 2017.

No luck.  

13. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

Note-taking completed. My proposal will need to include some sample chapters, so that process has begun.  

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

No progress.

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

On the suggestion of a reader:

I spent April praying to God at least once a day. Quite often three or more times per day. As you may know, I'm a reluctant atheist, so I hadn't prayed in a very long time. 

I'll be writing about the experience on my blog this month. 

I'm currently looking for my next behavior. Ideas anyone?

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,600.

I grew my list by 17 subscribers in April (and 159 overall this year). Total subscribers now stands at 1,443. If I continue at this pace, I will exceed 1,600 by the end of the year. 

If you would like to subscribe to my newsletter and receive writing and storytelling tips, Internet recommendations, recordings of new stories, and more, you can do so here:

17. Write at least six letters to my father.

I wrote one letter to my father in June.     

18. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress. 

19. Record one thing learned every day in 2017.

Done! My favorite thing learned in June is this:

The actors who played Mr. and Mrs. Bueller in 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' fell in love on set and got married after the film came out.

STORYTELLING

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

We produced one show in June at the CT Historical Society. This brings our total number of Speak Up shows in 2017 to nine.

21. Deliver a TED Talk.

Done! I spoke about the important things that teachers do at The Pomfret School in April. It went well! Hoping the producers recorded the talk well, and it will result in a quality video. 

I've pitched talks to two other TED events. 

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

I attended two Moth events in June (a StorySLAM in Boston and The Thread at Yale), bringing my yearly total to nine.

I plan to attend a lot of slams this summer.   

23. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

I won a Moth StorySLAM in Boston in June. It was my second win of the year and 30th win overall.

24. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

It looks like my next opportunity to compete in a Moth GrandSLAM will be in September.  

25. Produce at least 50 episodes of my new podcast Live Better.

I pulled down my first episode after receiving feedback from a friend who works in radio. I'm currently re-recording with a slightly different format.

I expect to relaunch this summer. 

26. Perform stand up at least once in 2016. 

August 21. Sea Tea Comedy Theater. I'm kind of terrified.  

27. Write a one-person show.

The "writing" for this show is nearly complete. 

A local theater is interested in having me perform. I'll be meeting with the director in the summer. 

NEW PROJECTS

28. Explore the option of teaching a college class.

I met with a professor from a local college and described my proposed class. She approved of my idea and promised to pass the information onto her department head.    

This isn't enough, of course. I need to speak to a department head or higher myself. 

29. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2016.

No progress.

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

The search for a location has begun. 

MISCELLANEOUS

31. I will stand in vocal opposition to every negative comment made about age disparities between male and female romantic couplings because I choose to respect a woman’s choices of romantic partner regardless of their age or the age of their partner.

No opportunities to vocally oppose this unfortunate prejudice in June.    

32. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2017.   

Done. 

Over the course of the month, I heard no man bragging about sexually assaulting women in any locker rooms (or anywhere else for that matter).  

33. I will stop presenting the heteronormative mother-and-father paradigm as the default parental paradigm when speaking to my children and my students.

Done. Not as hard as I thought. I switched over to "parents" in January and haven't slipped yet.     

34. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

Done. I've also learned that at least three other people have adopted this policy, which thrills me.    

35. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2016.

Two surprises so far in 2017.  

Flowers and a Cadbury Egg. 

36. 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.

We've hired someone to clear our windows, but this does not count. 

37. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

We upgraded our cable television interface to a voice activated, much more intuitive system that may fit the requirements of a streaming service. This upgrade is tremendous. Credit Elysha for the upgrade as well as the reduction in our cable/Internet bill as well.  

This might be declared done in a month or two if we continue to be satisfied with this arrangement. 

38. Set a new personal best in golf.

I played half a dozen rounds of golf in June. I've grown accustomed to my new grip. I have yet to set a new personal best, but I am improving.     

39. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

No progress. 

40. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

Two days spent working as DJ's at weddings in June.  

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

Done!

Resolution update: May 2017

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Not even close to death this month. 

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I gained two pounds in May, mostly due to a schedule that kept me from the gym, bringing the total loss for the year to eight pounds.

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 for at least 15 minutes each day.

I participated in two yoga classes while working at Kripalu this month. Not exactly meeting the goal. 

5. Take the stairs whenever I am ascending or descending five flights or less.

I mistakenly took the elevator yesterday. I was chatting with a colleague and mindlessly boarded the elevator for a trip up three flights. Otherwise, it's been the stairs every time. 

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my sixth novel before the end of 2017.

Work continues in earnest. Due date in July.   

7. Complete my first middle grade/YA novel.

Work continues in earnest. Due date is December.  

8. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

I started work on a non-fiction picture book about the great Idaho beaver airlift of 1948.  

9. Complete a book on storytelling.

Work continues in earnest. Due date in July.

10. Write a new screenplay.

No progress.

11. Write a musical.

Work has begun. I've written the first two scenes and have begun outlining it so that my partner can begin writing songs. 

12. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I have submitted one piece to the Times so far in 2017.

No luck.  

13. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

I'm still taking notes as the school year progresses for an idea that I think might work, and I have several other ideas that I am expanding into paragraph summaries. Work on this will likely commence at the end of the school year. 

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

No progress.

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

On the suggestion of a reader:

I spent April praying to God at least once a day. Quite often three or more times per day. As you may know, I'm a reluctant atheist, so I hadn't prayed in a very long time. 

I'll be writing about the experience on my blog this month. 

I'm currently looking for my next behavior. Ideas anyone?

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,600.

I grew my list by 22 subscribers in April (and 142 overall this year). Total subscribers now stands at 1,426. If I continue at this pace, I will exceed 1,600 by the end of the year. 

17. Write at least six letters to my father.

I received a letter from my father in February. I am still writing a response.    

18. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress. 

19. Record one thing learned every day in 2017.

Done! My favorite thing learned in March is this:

Disney's Frozen exists in the same universe as Disney's Tarzan. Tarzan's parents are Elsa and Anna's parents, not killed at sea but shipwrecked on the island and later eaten by a leopard. 

STORYTELLING

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

We produced one show in May at Infinity Hall in Hartford. 

This brings our total number of Speak Up shows in 2017 to eight.

21. Deliver a TED Talk.

Done! I spoke about the important things that teachers do at The Pomfret School in April. It went well! Hoping the producers recorded the talk well, and it will result in a quality video. 

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

I attended two Moth StorySLAMs in New York in May, bringing my yearly total to seven.   

23. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

I won a Moth StorySLAM in Boston in March. I was not chosen to perform in the two slams I attended in May. 

24. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

It looks like my next opportunity to compete in a Moth GrandSLAM will be in July.  

25. Produce at least 50 episodes of my new podcast Live Better.

I pulled down my first episode after receiving feedback from a friend who works in radio. I'm currently re-recording with a slightly different format.

I expect to relaunch this summer. 

26. Perform stand up at least once in 2016. 

A local stand up venue has invited me to perform. I'm getting my material ready. I plan to perform this summer. I will likely perform in New York with a friend as well.  

27. Write a one-person show.

The "writing" for this show is nearly complete. 

A local theater is interested in having me perform. I'll be meeting with the director in the summer. 

NEW PROJECTS

28. Explore the option of teaching a college class.

No progress.   

29. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2016.

No progress.

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

No progress.

MISCELLANEOUS

31. I will stand in vocal opposition to every negative comment made about age disparities between male and female romantic couplings because I choose to respect a woman’s choices of romantic partner regardless of their age or the age of their partner.

No opportunities to vocally oppose this unfortunate prejudice in May.    

32. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2017.   

Done. 

Over the course of the month, I heard no man bragging about sexually assaulting women in any locker rooms (or anywhere else for that matter).  

33. I will stop presenting the heteronormative mother-and-father paradigm as the default parental paradigm when speaking to my children and my students.

Done. Not as hard as I thought. I switched over to "parents" in January and haven't slipped yet.     

34. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

I referred to Donald Trump as "The Circus Peanut" twice in May. This is definitely a negative comment on physical appearance. I did it for comedic sake on on Twitter, but still, I'm disappointed in myself. 

I've also added my mother-in-law, father-in-law, and grandmother-in-law to my permitted list of people to whom can make comments about physical appearance.    

35. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2016.

Two surprises so far in 2017.  

Flowers and a Cadbury Egg. 

36. 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. 

37. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

We upgraded our cable television interface to a voice activated, much more intuitive system that may fit the requirements of a streaming service. This upgrade is tremendous. Credit Elysha for the upgrade as well as the reduction in our cable/Internet bill as well.  

This might be declared done in a month or two if we continue to be satisfied with this arrangement. 

38. Set a new personal best in golf.

I played two horrendous rounds of golf in May, but I'm getting accustomed to a new grip and new swing. Hopefully this is one step back for two steps forward.    

39. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

No progress. 

40. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

No progress. 

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

Done!

Resolution update: April 2017

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

I've got a sore elbow, but I don't think it's life threatening.  

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I lost one more pound in April bringing the total loss to ten pounds.

Still well ahead of schedule, thanks to consistent exercise, careful eating, and little time for lunch. 

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 for at least 15 minutes each day.

No progress.

5. Take the stairs whenever I am ascending or descending five flights or less.

Done. I took the elevator yesterday for a four flight climb, but I was with my daughter and running late for a birthday party. Otherwise it's all stairs, all the time. 

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my sixth novel before the end of 2017.

Work continues in earnest. Due date in July.   

7. Complete my first middle grade/YA novel.

Work continues in earnest. Due date is December.  

8. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

Many ideas, including two new nonfiction ideas that Elysha LOVES, but no progress as of yet. I have July deadlines that come first.  

9. Complete a book on storytelling.

Work continues in earnest. Due date in July.

10. Write a new screenplay.

No progress. 

11. Write a musical.

No progress.

12. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I have submitted one piece to the Times so far in 2017.

No luck.  

13. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

I'm still taking notes as the school year progresses for an idea that I think might work, and I have several other ideas that I am expanding into paragraph summaries. Work on this will likely commence at the end of the school year. 

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

No progress.

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

On the suggestion of a reader:

I spent April praying to God at least once a day. Quite often three or more times per day. As you may know, I'm a reluctant atheist, so I hadn't prayed in a very long time. 

I'll be writing about the experience on my blog this month. 

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,600.

I grew my list by 21 subscribers in April (and 120 overall this year). Total subscribers now stands at 1,404. If I continue at this pace, I will exceed 1,600 by the end of the year. 

17. Write at least six letters to my father.

I received a letter from my father in February. I am still writing a response.    

18. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress. 

19. Record one thing learned every day in 2017.

Done! My favorite thing learned in March is this:

Tommy James had two number one hits over the course of his musical career: Crimson and Clover and Hanky Panky. In 1987, two of his other songs, Mony Mony and I Think We're Alone Now, were covered by Billy Idol and Tiffany respectively and hit number one in consecutive weeks.

STORYTELLING

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

We produced one show in April at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Manchester. .

This brings our total number of Speak Up shows in 2017 to seven.

21. Deliver a TED Talk.

Done! I spoke about the important things that teachers do at The Pomfret School in April. It went well! Hoping the producers recorded the talk well, and it will result in a quality video. 

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

I attended one Moth StorySLAM in New York in April, bringing my yearly total to five.   

23. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

I won a Moth StorySLAM in Boston in March. 

I placed second at my April StorySLAM in NYC. 

24. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

It looks like my next opportunity to compete in a Moth GrandSLAM will be in July.  

25. Produce at least 50 episodes of my new podcast Live Better.

I pulled down my first episode after receiving feedback from a friend who works in radio. I'm currently re-recording with a slightly different format.

To be honest, my biggest problem is that I cannot find a moment of quiet in my home to record. 

26. Perform stand up at least once in 2016. 

A local stand up venue has invited me to perform. I'm getting my material ready. I plan to perform this summer. I will likely perform in New York with a friend as well.  

27. Write a one-person show.

The "writing" for this show is nearly complete. 

A local theater is interested in having me perform. I'll be meeting with the director in the summer. 

NEW PROJECTS

28. Explore the option of teaching a college class.

No progress.   

29. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2016.

No progress.

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

No progress.

MISCELLANEOUS

31. I will stand in vocal opposition to every negative comment made about age disparities between male and female romantic couplings because I choose to respect a woman’s choices of romantic partner regardless of their age or the age of their partner.

No opportunities to vocally oppose this unfortunate prejudice in April.    

32. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2017.   

Done. 

Over the course of the month, I heard no man bragging about sexually assaulting women in any locker rooms (or anywhere else for that matter).  

33. I will stop presenting the heteronormative mother-and-father paradigm as the default parental paradigm when speaking to my children and my students.

Done. Not as hard as I thought. I switched over to "parents" in January and haven't slipped yet.     

34. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

Done. No close calls in April. No desire at all to comment on physical appearance.

I'm adding my mother-in-law, father-in-law, and grandmother-in-law to my permitted list of people to whom can make comments about physical appearance.    

35. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2016.

Two surprises so far in 2017.  

Flowers and a Cadbury Egg. 

36. 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. But it would be nice to replace the questionable screens in the bedroom so we could open them and not worry about the cats falling out. 

IMG_4524.JPG

37. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

We upgraded our cable television interface to a voice activated, much more intuitive system that may fit the requirements of a streaming service. This upgrade is tremendous. Credit Elysha for the upgrade as well as the reduction in our cable/Internet bill as well.  

38. Set a new personal best in golf.

No progress/ I've spent about two hours on the range. hitting the ball poorly with my new grip. I also played one round of golf with a friend. I had two pars and a birdie to end the round, but still not close to my personal best.   

39. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

No progress. I turned down two offers because I wasn't available.  

40. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

I invited him to go bowling with me, but he was on vacation. 

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

Done!

Resolution update: March 2017

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

Still alive and kicking. 

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I lost four more pounds in March, bringing the total loss to nine pounds.

Well ahead of schedule, thanks to consistent exercise, careful eating, and little time for lunch. 

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 for at least 15 minutes each day.

No progress.

5. Take the stairs whenever I am ascending or descending five flights or less.

Done.

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my sixth novel before the end of 2017.

Work continues in earnest. Due date in July.   

7. Complete my first middle grade/YA novel.

SOLD! Work now begins in earnest. Due date is December.  

8. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

Many ideas, but no progress as of yet. 

9. Complete a book on storytelling.

Work continues in earnest. Due date in July.

10. Write a new screenplay.

No progress. 

11. Write a musical.

No progress.

12. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I have submitted one piece to the Times so far in 2017.

No luck.  

13. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

I'm taking notes on one idea as the school year progresses, and I have several other ideas that I am expanding into paragraph summaries. Work on this will likely commence at the end of the school year. 

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

No progress.

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

On the suggestion of a reader:

I will spend April praying to God at least once a day. As you may know, I'm a reluctant atheist, so I haven't prayed in a very long time. But I'm willing to give it a shot and see what happens.  

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,600.

I grew my list by 33 subscribers in March (and 99 overall this year). Total subscribers now stands at 1,383. If I continue at this pace, I will exceed 1,600 by the end of the year. 

17. Write at least six letters to my father.

I received a letter from my father in February. I am still writing a response.    

18. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress. 

19. Record one thing learned every day in 2017.

Done! My favorite thing learned in March is this:

The 1969 NASA mission that landed the first two humans on the moon - the average age of NASA employees in the control room throughout the launch and landing was just 28 years old.

STORYTELLING

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

We produced one show in March: A showcase in conjunction with Unified Theater that featured students, parents, and staffers working with the organization. They performed brilliantly.

This brings our total number of Speak Up shows in 2017 to six.

21. Deliver a TED Talk.

I will be speaking at a TEDx conference in April. 

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

I attended one Moth StorySLAM in Boston in March, bringing my yearly total to four.   

23. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

I won a Moth StorySLAM in Boston in March. This is my first win of 2017.  

24. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

It looks like my next Moth GrandSLAM will be in July.  

25. Produce at least 50 episodes of my new podcast Live Better.

I pulled down my first episode after receiving feedback from a friend who works in radio. I'm currently re-recording with a slightly different format.

To be honest, my biggest problem is that I cannot find a moment of quiet in my home to record. 

26. Perform stand up at least once in 2016. 

A local stand up venue has invited me to perform. I'm getting my material ready. I plan to perform this summer. I will likely perform in New York with a friend as well.  

27. Write a one-person show.

The "writing" for this show is nearly complete. 

A local theater is interested in having me perform. I'll be meeting with the director in April. 

NEW PROJECTS

28. Explore the option of teaching a college class.

No progress.   

29. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2016.

No progress.

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

No progress.

MISCELLANEOUS

31. I will stand in vocal opposition to every negative comment made about age disparities between male and female romantic couplings because I choose to respect a woman’s choices of romantic partner regardless of their age or the age of their partner.

No opportunities to vocally oppose in March.   

32. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2017.   

Done. 

Not surprising, I heard no man bragging about sexually assaulting women in any locker rooms (or anywhere else for that matter) in March.  

33. I will stop presenting the heteronormative mother-and-father paradigm as the default parental paradigm when speaking to my children and my students.

Done. Not as hard as I thought. I switched over to "parents" in January and haven't slipped yet.     

34. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

Done. No close calls in March. No desire at all to comment on physical appearance.

I'm considering adding my mother-in-law, father-in-law, and grandmother-in-law to my permitted list. If my mom was alive, I would likely comment positively on her appearance. These people are similar enough to consider it.   

35. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2016.

I brought home flowers for Elysha for no reason other than I thought she might like some flowers.
Not exactly original but still a surprise. 

Two surprises so far in 2017.  

36. 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. I can feel the heat creeping out of the windows by the second.   

37. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

We upgraded our cable television interface to a voice activated, much more intuitive system that may fit the requirements of a streaming service. This upgrade is tremendous. Credit Elysha for the upgrade as well as the reduction in our cable/Internet bill as well.  

38. Set a new personal best in golf.

No progress until the snow goes away. 

39. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

No progress.

40. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

No progress. 

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

Done!

Your compliments about physical appearance are meaningless. Try these instead.

One of my New Year's resolutions (and likely one of my lifelong policies now) is the following: 

I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

I've been adhering to this policy since the beginning of the year, and I'm here to report that it is not difficult to follow.

It's fairly simple, in fact.

Other than a handful of times that I have wanted to point out the oddity of a person's appearance to a friend or family member, the elimination of comments related to physical appearance has been blessedly easy.

And in those cases when I have wanted to point out the oddity of someone's appearance, I reminded myself, "Who am I do judge how that person presents him or herself? People can be whoever they want to be. I left middle school behind a long time ago."

One of the more amusing aspects of this policy is how I am occasionally required to generate a compliment that isn't related to physical appearance when a simple comment on physical appearance would do just fine.

Though I haven't been forced to research possible alternative compliments yet, I have always loved this list and offer it here as an alternative to the standard comment on clothing, hair, or shoes, which in my experience are the most common (and frankly least meaningful) compliments offered in the world today.  

Resolution update: February 2017

1. Don’t die.

Still alive. Still kicking. 

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I lost four pounds in February, bringing the total lost to five pounds, mostly because I was sick and lacking an appetite and have been skipping lunch to get things done. 

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

A two-week persistence fever prevented me from achieving this goal, but an illness exemption is allowed.  

4. Practice yoga at least three days a week for at least 15 minutes each day.

No progress.

5. Take the stairs whenever I am ascending or descending five flights or less.

Done! Last weekend Elysha and I stayed in a hotel for a night, and thankfully we were on the sixth floor. I wondered if I would've actually taken the stairs with my luggage if I was on the fourth floor. Seems like an exemption in that case is in order. 

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my sixth novel before the end of 2017.

My editor and I have decided on the next book. Work has begun in earnest.  

7. Complete my first middle grade/YA novel.

The sale of my first middle grade/YA novel will hopefully take place soon (keep your fingers crossed!), and with that sale, work on this book will commence. 

8. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

Many ideas, but no progress as of yet. 

9. Complete a book on storytelling.

SOLD! Work has begun in earnest.

10. Write a new screenplay.

No progress. 

11. Write a musical.

No progress.

12. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

I submitted one piece to the New York Times for consideration. No luck. 

On a related note, I sold two more pieces to Parents magazine. 

13. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

I'm taking notes on one idea as the school year progresses, and I have several other ideas that I am expanding into paragraph summaries. Work on this will likely commence at the end of the school year. 

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

No progress.

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

No progress. Also, I'm in need of behaviors. Last year I tried backing into parking spaces, daily affirmations, and bottle flipping.

Thoughts for this year?

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,600.

I grew my list by 29 subscribers in February (and 66 overall this year). Total subscribers now stands at 1,350. If I continue at this pace, I will exceed 1,600 by the end of the year. 

17. Write at least six letters to my father.

I received a letter from my father this month. I am writing a response now.    

18. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress. 

19. Record one thing learned every day in 2017.

Done! My favorite thing learned in February is this:

Johnny Cash's song "A Boy Named Sue" was written by Shel Silverstein. 

STORYTELLING

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

We produced two shows February: A typical Speak Up event at the Connecticut Historical Society and a special show in conjunction with Voices of Hope that featured the children on Holocaust survivors telling stories about their parents and how their parents' experiences changed them. This brings our total number of shows in 2017 to five.

Things should slow down now.  

21. Deliver a TED Talk.

I've been invited to speak at a TEDx event in April. 

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

I attended one Moth StorySLAM in Boston, as well as a GrandLSLAM in Brooklyn. This brings my yearly total to three.  

23. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

My name was drawn first at the Boston StorySLAM, giving me little chance to win. I finished in fourth place. 

24. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I drew the first spot at the Brooklyn GrandSLAM, which meant I had no chance of winning. I finished in fourth place. 

25. Produce at least 50 episodes of my new podcast Live Better.

I pulled down my first episode after receiving feedback from a friend who works in radio. I'm currently re-recording with a slightly different format. To be honest, my biggest problem is I cannot find a moment of quiet in my home to record. 

26. Perform stand up at least once in 2016. 

A local stand up venue has invited me to perform. I'm getting my material ready. 

27. Write a one-person show.

The "writing" for this has been going surprising well and is nearly complete. I don't actually write the show but work it out in my mind and then record finished sections.

Even better, a theater may be interested in having me perform. In preparation, I've been speaking to a director about lighting, set design, etc.  

NEW PROJECTS

28. Explore the option of teaching a college class.

No progress.   

29. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2016.

No progress.

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

No progress.

MISCELLANEOUS

31. I will stand in vocal opposition to every negative comment made about age disparities between male and female romantic couplings because I choose to respect a woman’s choices of romantic partner regardless of their age or the age of their partner.

Done. I had at least two opportunities to do so in February. No one liked what I had to say, but I didn't give a damn.   

32. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2017.   

Done. 

Not surprising, I heard no man bragging about sexually assaulting women in any locker rooms (or anywhere else) in February.  

33. I will stop presenting the heteronormative mother-and-father paradigm as the default parental paradigm when speaking to my children and my students.

Done. Not as hard as I thought. I switched over to "parents" in January and haven't slipped yet.     

34. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

I pointed out to my wife that the dress for adults at my daughter's Snow Ball dance ranged from jeans and tee-shirts to tuxedos and little black dresses. While this was admittedly a comment related to physical appearance, I was not commenting on any one person in particular, nor was I judging anyone's decision. I really didn't care what people chose to wear. 

35. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2016.

I handed Elysha a Cadbury Egg just before she was to take the stage at Speak Up. Nothing more surprising than handing a Jewish woman a bit of Easter candy just before she is to speak to almost 200 people.  

36. 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. I can feel the heat creeping out of the windows by the second.   

37. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

No progress. 

38. Set a new personal best in golf.

No progress until the snow goes away. 

39. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

No progress.

40. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

No progress. 

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

Done!

Resolution update: January 2017

1. Don’t die.

Still alive and kicking. 

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I lost one pound in January. Not exactly a good start.

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 for at least 15 minutes each day.

I haven't started on this goal yet. I really should.

5. Take the stairs whenever I am ascending or descending five flights or less.

Done! Even though I don't work in a building with an elevator, it turns out that I run into elevators more often than I thought. Parking garages, especially, and each time, I took the stairs and am happy I did.

WRITING CAREER

6. Complete my sixth novel before the end of 2017.

I'm waiting for a decision on what book I will be writing. I have a few options and am awaiting thoughts from my agent and editor. 

7. Complete my first middle grade/YA novel.

The sale of my first middle grade/YA novel will hopefully take place soon (keep your fingers crossed!), and with that sale, work on this book will commence. 

8. Write at least three new picture books, including one with a female, non-white protagonist. 

Two new ideas added to the growing list of ideas, but no progress as of yet. 

9. Complete a book on storytelling.

I'm still waiting for this book to sell. When it does, work will commence.

10. Write a new screenplay.

No progress. 

11. Write a musical.

No progress.

12. Submit at least five Op-Ed pieces to The New York Times for consideration.

No progress.

13. Write a proposal for a nonfiction book related to education.

I'm taking notes on one idea as the school year progresses, and I have several other ideas that I am expanding into paragraph summaries. Work on this will likely commence at the end of the school year. 

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

No progress.

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

No progress. Also, I'm in need of behaviors. Last year I tried backing into parking spaces, daily affirmations, and bottle flipping.

Thoughts for this year?

16. Increase my author newsletter subscriber base to 1,600.

I grew my list by 37 subscribers in January to 1,321. If I continue at this pace, I will exceed 1,600 by the end of the year. 

17. Write at least six letters to my father.

No progress,   

18. Convert Greetings Little One into a book.

No progress. 

19. Record one thing learned every day in 2017.

Done! My favorite thing learned in January is this:

Mayer–Rokitansky–Küster–Hauser syndrome is named after four men born in 1787, 1804, 1879, and 1921 respectively. It's a condition by which a woman is born without a uterus and vagina. 

It also needs a new name.

STORYTELLING

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

We produced three shows January: Real Art Ways, Infinity Hall, and a special Martin Luther King, Jr. Day show in conjunction with West Hartford Public Schools and Solomon Schechter Day School.  

21. Deliver a TED Talk.

I've pitched talks to four organizers. Waiting for responses. 

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

I attended one Moth StorySLAM at The Bell House in January. My name was sadly not drawn from the hat. 

23. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

No progress. Didn't get to tell a story in January. 

24. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

No progress. I compete in the NYC GrandSLAM in February. 

25. Produce at least 50 episodes of my new podcast Live Better.

I pulled down my first episode after receiving feedback from a friend who works in radio. I'm currently re-recording with a slightly different format. 

26. Perform stand up at least once in 2016. 

A local stand up venue has invited me to perform. I'm getting my material ready. 

27. Write a one-person show.

The "writing" for this has been going surprising well and is nearly complete. I don't actually write the show but work it out in my mind and then record finished sections.

Even better, a theater may be interested in having me perform.  

NEW PROJECTS

28. Explore the option of teaching a college class.

No progress.   

29. Cook at least 12 good meals (averaging one per month) in 2016.

No progress.

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

No progress.

MISCELLANEOUS

31. I will stand in vocal opposition to every negative comment made about age disparities between male and female romantic couplings because I choose to respect a woman’s choices of romantic partner regardless of their age or the age of their partner.

Done. I had one opportunity to do so in January and did so with great aplomb.  

32. I will report on the content of speech during every locker room experience via social media in 2017.   

Done. I summarized a week of locker room experiences at one point but did not miss a chance to report on the content of the speech in January.

Not surprising, I heard no man bragging about sexually assaulting women.  

33. I will stop presenting the heteronormative mother-and-father paradigm as the default parental paradigm when speaking to my children and my students.

Done. Not as hard as I thought. I switched over to "parents" in January and haven't slipped yet.     

34. I will not comment, positively or negatively, about physical appearance of any person save my wife and children, in 2017 in an effort to reduce the focus on physical appearance in our culture overall. 

I insulted a student's Pittsburg Steelers jersey during the week of the AFC Championship game. I think this counts as a comment about physical appearance, and yet it still seems justified to me. Otherwise I was a success. 

35. Surprise Elysha at least six times in 2016.

No progress.   

36. 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. I can feel the heat creeping out of the windows by the second.   

37. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

No progress. 

38. Set a new personal best in golf.

No progress until the snow goes away. 

39. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

No progress.

40. Spend at least six days with my best friend of more than 25 years.

No progress. 

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

Done!

Resolution update: 2016 in review

In 2016, I completed 19 of 32 goals (one goal was cancelled early in the year) 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%
2015: 59%

I also recently pointed out to a friend that I set many goals each year, knowing that I won't come close to achieving all of them, but would rather set high expectations that I fail to reach rather than set a list of reasonable expectation that I know I can achieve.

And I had some areas of great success in 2016. I performed especially well in the areas of writing (8 out of 12 goals completed) and storytelling (7 out of 8 completed). 

While I'm pleased with the overall results, 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 2016. 

There were also a few pathetic failures.

I failed to write a new screenplay. I failed to finalize any details for our Heavy Metal Playhouse 25 year reunion. My television is still without a streaming service, even though my mother-in-law bought us an Apple TV and nearly installed it herself. I didn't find time to play six games of poker. 

These were not difficult goals to achieve..

This was also the third consecutive year that I failed to schedule an evening of Shakespeare in my home, despite interest among many friends. Apparently I'm not that interested in this project.

In fairness, the friends most excited about this evening have now moved away. Still...

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

  1. I was paid to perform at venues in Boston, MA, Champagne, IL, North Hampton, MA, New York, NY, and various venues throughout Connecticut. 
  2. I launched Boy vs. Girl, a podcast that I produce and cohost with Rachel Leventhal-Weiner at the end of 2015. We just celebrated our one-year anniversary.  
  3. I expanded my roster of clients with whom I consult for on screenplays, pilot scripts, and TED Talks. 
  4. I taught storytelling and public speaking at Yale University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Hartford, Miss Porter's School, and The Berkshire School. I also booked three more workshops (including a weeklong workshop) at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. 
  5. I taught storytelling to a dozen rabbis as part of a rabbinical retreat in upstate New York and to the administrators of Windsor Public Schools.  
  6. I booked weddings for 2017, extending my DJ career into its 21st season.   

Here are my specific successes and failures from 2016: 

PERSONAL HEALTH

1. Don’t die.

No death in 2016. Given the fact that I actually died in 1982 and 1988, it's not as obvious an accomplishment as you might think. I also had tubes put in my ears this month, which felt like I was going to die, but I didn't. 

SUCCESS.

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I gained four more pounds in December. Ear problems and weekends spent performing in the Berkshires and Illinois didn't help. I finished the year eight pounds lighter and missed this goal by 12 pounds. 

FAIL.

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

Done.

SUCCESS.

4. Practice yoga at least three days a week.

I took a yoga class as Kripalu this month, but that was it.

I also took the class in jeans and a tee shirt.

Even though I took four yoga classes in 2016 and engaged in yoga for a solid month, a separated shoulder and two months of physical therapy derailed my momentum. 

FAIL.

WRITING CAREER

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

Done!

SUCCESS.

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.

Not surprising, my editor has some say in this.

I turned in final revisions on my next book last week, so the decision process on the next novel begins next month. The book was not be finished by the end of the year.

FAIL.

7. Write a proposal for a middle grade novel.

Done! The editor and her team love the book. Minor revisions were finished this week. We hope to have an offer soon.

SUCCESS.

8. Write at least three new picture books. 

My now-former student and I have finished the first draft of our picture book.  

In November, I wrote a picture book about the Presidential election that I sent to my agent and a children's book editor. Both had very good things to say about the book but feel that it is too closely aligned with a specific moment in history to be marketable. I was disappointed. I think it's a great book.

In December I wrote the first draft of a picture book based upon a real life animal rescue from the 1950's. It needs work, but I'm very excited about it.

SUCCESS.

9. Complete a 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.  

SUCCESS

10. Write a new screenplay

No screenplay. One of my biggest disappointments of 2016.

FAIL.

11. Write a musical for a summer camp

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

SUCCESS.

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

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

In 2017, I will write goals that depend less upon the opinions and judgments of others and more upon my own effort. For example, a goal like this will read:

"Submit at least five pieces to the Op-Ed editor for the New York Times."

FAIL.

13. Publish an article in an educational journal.

No article.

FAIL. 

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

Submissions completed in December. One rejection so far. 

SUCCESS.

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 wrote about my experience this month.

In November, I engaged in the "sport" of bottle flipping, which is all the rage amongst many young people. I wrote about my experience this month.

SUCCESS.

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

Done! My subscriber list now stands at 1,284 readers. My list has grown by 36% in 2016.

SUCCESS.

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 two shows at Real Art Ways and the Yale Cabaret in December, bringing our total number of shows to 19 in 2016.

SUCCESS. 

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." 

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."  

SUCCESS.

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

Done! In December I attended two Moth StorySLAMs at Oberon in Cambridge and The Bell House in Brooklyn. This brings my total number of Moth events in 2016 to 29.

SUCCESS.

21. Win at least three Moth StorySLAMs.

Done! I attended two StorySLAMs in December and won, bringing my total number of wins to five in 2016 and 28 overall.

SUCCESS.

22. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

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

SUCCESS.

23. Launch at least one new podcast.

The podcast launches today. Live Better Now. 

I cut this one close, but it's an excellent argument in favor of yearly goals and deadlines. I may have continued to push the launch of this podcast off if not for the end-of-the-year accounting of success and failure.

SUCCESS. 

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, which has yet to publish. I can't move forward on this project until the book is done.

FAIL. 

NEW PROJECTS

25. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

No Shakespeare Circle.

FAIL.

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

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

SUCCESS.

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.

FAIL.

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 new windows.

FAIL.

29. Optimize our television for a streaming service. 

No progress.

FAIL.

30. Set a new personal best in golf.

I tied my previous personal twice in 2016 but failed set a new personal best.

FAIL. 

31. Play poker at least six times in 2016.

I tied my personal best twice in 2016 but failed to set a new personal best. 

FAIL.

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

Done. 

SUCCESS.

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

Done.

SUCCESS.

Bottle flipping: I gave it a month. Here are my thoughts.

When I was a kid, we climbed the highest trees. Rode our bikes without any hands. Jumped across roaring streams. Skateboarded down concrete steps. Threw tennis balls at each other.

Today children flip half-filled plastic water bottles in the air in hopes of landing them in a standing position.

Perhaps this is unfair. Simply because they flip water bottles incessantly doesn't mean they don't do all those other things. I don't see them doing these other things, and they seem overly concerned about dirtying their clothes or getting their shoes wet, but maybe I'm not looking closely enough. Maybe today's youth are scampering up trees and splashing through streams with reckless abandon when I'm not looking. 

Still, they flip bottles. And when they capture their flip on camera, they get millions of views on YouTube. There are even apps dedicated to water blottle flipping. 

As part of a New Year's resolution to try things that I don't understand or have a negative view toward, I spent a month flipping bottles with kids at my school. During recess and after school, I joined in, flipping half-empty water bottles into the air in an attempt to land them in a standing position.

Here are my observations:

  1. It's not hard to get fairly proficient at simple bottle flipping. I became adept at this practice relatively quickly. 
  2. Filling the bottle about one-third of the way seems ideal for flipping.  
  3. The kids have NO DESIRE to add any layer of competition to this activity. They simply want to mindlessly flip water bottles on their own, almost unaware of the bottle flippers around them. This was the most surprising and disappointing aspect of this exercise to me and mildly disconcerting in terms of the future of our civilization. 
  4. Bottle flipping would have been impossible in my childhood, since the ridiculousness of bottled water wasn't sold in stores until 1983 and only gained significant market share in the 1990's. But try explaining to anyone under 30 that there was a time when water wasn't readily available in stores and people were forced to quench their thirsts via drinking fountains (bubblers where I grew up), garden hoses, and taps. Minds blown. 
  5. Ultimately, I did not enjoy bottle flipping and felt that it was a tragic waste of time. I tried to compare it favorably with the time I spent as a child playing my Atari 5200 and pouring quarters into pinballs machines and video games at arcades throughout the northeast, but in the end, I found the two activities incomparable for a few reasons:
  • First, kids spend more time playing video games than ever before, so it's not as if bottle flipping has replaced any time in front of screens. They have simply layered this time-wasting activity atop their time spent gaming.
  • Second, there is also almost no socializing aspect to this activity. The kids bottle flip in near isolation, even if there are fellow flippers beside them. When I played video games, we collaborated and/or competed against one another depending upon the game. We watched the best gamers perform, hoping to learn tips and tricks for next time. Video games brought my friends and I together in basements, living rooms, and malls. We challenged one another, taunted and boasted mid-game, and created memories that I still have today: specific, joyous, heartbreaking moments of standing alongside my pals, joystick in hand, battling it out over silver balls, enlarged pixels and electronic beeps.  
  • It's not difficult to master this skill. Admittedly, there are bottle flippers on YouTube who have done some incredible things, but the average bottle flipper is simply looking to land that bottle upright. Not hard. Video games were high stakes and difficult. You invested money and time in order to beat the game, flip the machine, conquer the highest level, and add your initials to the high score. This took dedication and  persistence. I don't see this from today's bottle flippers.

In the end, bottle flipping will go away. Disappear into forgotten history. I already see it happening. Even as I flipped, kids became less enamored by the activity. Fewer children joined the pursuit. This is good, because it is a stupid and mindless way to spend one's time, and its waning popularity is an indication of this.

Sadly, I don't see the demise of bottle flipping leading to an increase in tree climbing, stream jumping, or skateboarding. These soulful, physically demanding, high stakes activities have not disappeared into the ether, but they are not nearly as popular as they were in my youth. They will not go the way of the bottle flip but instead continue to be practiced by those children who still seek to challenge elements and are fortunate enough to have parents who allow them to exist beyond fences and leashes and into the world of water and rock and sky.