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Return of the Annual Review! Let’s Do This! (I mean, if you want.)

danielle-macinnes-222441-unsplash Over the past eight nine ten! years, nothing has helped me to accomplish big goals and stay on track more than a single exercise I complete each December: the Annual Review.

Last year I got a little off track and didn't finish for the first time in a decade. It wasn't pretty. Good news: just like Britney, I'm back.

For much of the next week I'll be working only half-time while I consider some of my successes, failures, and lessons learned from 2018.

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Sometimes The Best Thing You Can Hear Is “It’s Going to Be Okay”

I've had a few people write in to ask me if I've stopped blogging. Nope—but I'm sorry! It sure looks that way.

I've just been on hiatus while writing a new book. I'll tell you about it soon, and I very much look forward to getting back to regular posts here. (In the meantime, the daily podcast continues.)

For now, I thought I'd pop up and express something that's been on my mind. Every now and then, I see a post offering "Advice for My Younger Self," and I've been asked to share mine in interviews from time to time.

The question I've learned to ask, when working through various issues, is, "What is six-year-old Chris feeling right now?" It's an interesting practice, at least to someone like me who doesn't naturally think this way.

If I could go back in time to talk to a younger Chris, though, I'm not sure it would be the six-year-old version. I think it would be a version somewhere in the 11-14 age range.

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No Reservations to Parts Unknown: Thank You, Anthony Bourdain

I wasn’t always an Anthony Bourdain fan. My first exposure to him came when I read a critical comment he’d made that didn’t sit right with me. But that was evidently just a passing comment, and I didn’t even know the context, so a couple of years ago I started paying more attention to him. I enjoyed his show whenever I saw clips of it in hotel lounges and airports around the world.

Then I read a New Yorker profile that radically shifted my early perspective. I loved it! I remember reading it more than once while traveling in some country or another, no doubt one that he'd been to as well.

I liked the article so much partly because I identified with his style and approach. I could see parts of myself in how he lived. Not in terms of the level of success, since I am no Anthony Bourdain in that department, but in terms of his work ethic and willingness to keep pushing himself over and over.

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If You Want to Make Money, Don’t Study Hard in School

If you want to make money, question the rules and don’t study hard in school. That’s the finding of a new study.

In 1968, researchers began studying 12-year-old students who were in the sixth grade. They examined the influence of their intelligence, characteristics, behaviors and their parents' socioeconomic status.

Then, 40 years later, they followed up with those students. Not surprisingly, the students who were described by teachers as "studious" were more likely to have prestigious jobs. But, the studious kids didn't make the most money in adulthood.

The highest income earners were the "naughty kids." The kids who broke the rules and defied parental authority became the highest income earners as adults.

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The Truth Is a Terrible Thing, But Not Compared to Falsehood

Reality isn’t just what someone tells you. They could be lying to you, or they just might be speaking from their own limited perspective. We know this, right? We can't just accept at face value everything we hear.

But reality also isn’t just what you tell yourself, at least not if you're trying to avoid something. You too have a limited perspective. You have weaknesses, insecurities, and fears that can be surprisingly resilient in their pursuit of a false narrative.

Reality is at least somewhat objective, at least when it comes to basic facts. Sure, you can interpret those facts as you’d like, but facts are facts.

When you choose to persistently believe something that you know, deep down, might not actually be true, you’re lying to the most important person in your life: yourself.

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To Win the Lottery, Buy a Ticket and Never Check the Numbers

I recently bought my first lottery ticket in something like 15 years. The purchase happened on a whim, as I was walking down the street in California. When I passed by a minimart, I thought, “I should go inside and buy a lottery ticket.” And so I did.

To a lottery novice such as myself, the process was a little confusing. Apparently there’s not just one lottery... there are many! Not being familiar with the pros and cons of various options, I asked the clerk for the cheapest one.

I bought the ticket on a lark and didn’t really have a plan at first. But then, before I left the store, I knew what I would do next: nothing at all. I’d hold on to the ticket but never check the numbers to see if I’d won.

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Under the Unseen Blue Sky in Sydney, Australia

If you’re going through a dark night of the soul, you might as well pass the time in a beautiful place.

That’s what I was thinking as my hour-long Qantas flight from Melbourne began its descent to Sydney. Australia has long been a place of joy and peace for me, and Sydney in particular. Ever since I first stumbled into town five years ago, when I was denied boarding on a flight from Brisbane to Nauru (long story), I’ve been coming back every chance I get.

This time felt different because, well, I’m different. I’ve been judging the days on a 1-10 scale, and I get excited—at least moderately so—when I feel higher than a 3.

And so as the flight lands in Sydney and I take the airport train to the city, bracing myself against an onset of anxiety, I begin my self-talk.

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Don’t Feel Pressured To Find Your Life’s Purpose At Age 21

I don't think you're supposed to know your true passion or purpose right away. It tends to emerge as you embark on different paths.

It's good that you're frustrated—it shows that you understand the importance of the search. But I think the best thing you can do is be open and explore different paths. The truest one tends to appear as you go along, not before you start.

At least that's how it was for me. From a young age I felt exactly what you describe: the idea that I was just pushing my life along with no north star.

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The Importance of Having a Breakdown, AKA “What Happened to the Annual Review”

What can I say about the Annual Review process that I’ve completed without fail for more than a decade?

This year, I gave up on it and walked away.

Well, not quite—that would be an exaggeration. But to be fully honest (and we shall return to this phrase again), I had a hard time facing it. Eventually I was able to make some progress, which I’ll note below, but the overall sense was one of sadness.

Last year was hard, too. And there have been other hard years. This time, however, felt nearly insurmountable.

A challenge became a struggle. The struggle became a crisis, and the crisis became, well, something that approaches a total breakdown.

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2017 Annual Review: How to Evaluate Your Life Even When You’re Feeling Sad

Last year I resisted my Annual Review for the first time in 10 years. This year, what can I say... I guess it’s the second wave of resistance.

Over the past month I’ve entered a season of wandering in the wilderness. I don’t want to sound overly-mopey, so I’ll spare you the details. I know I’ll get through it at some point; it’s just hard to celebrate accomplishments or feel festive at the moment.

There are still several reasons why I’m going to proceed with the review...

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When You’re Stuck in a Hole, Look for Someone to Join You: A Lesson in Empathy

A man is walking down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.

A doctor passes by and the man shouts up, “Hey you! Can you help me out?” The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole, and moves on.

Then a priest comes along and the man shouts up, “Father, I’m down in this hole. Can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole, and moves on.

Then a friend walks by. “Hey, it’s me," the man calls out. "Can you help?” And then the friend jumps in the hole...

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A Field Guide to Wandering in the Wilderness of the Soul

When you’re wandering cobblestone streets in Europe, stopping at cafes and making unexpected discoveries, it’s fun to lose your way and wander off the well-trodden path. You’re on an adventure! When you’re out on a long run and don’t mind if you take a wrong turn or two, you know that the extra distance is good for you.

But here’s the thing: you’re not really lost in those situations. You’re exactly where you wanted to be, even if you didn’t know it before you took the detour. That’s why "getting lost" feels oddly welcoming.

When it comes to wandering in the wilderness of the soul, however, it’s a different situation. This is the wilderness where you feel truly lost. You lack direction, enthusiasm, or purpose—or maybe all three. You don’t know what to do, and every option you can see feels like two steps backwards.

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The Limits of Lifehacking: What Happens When You Approach Optimization?

I have a weird memory of my dad explaining math to me when I was a kid. I never actually learned real math, at least once it went beyond how to pocket extra lunch money, and still haven’t learned 30-odd years later.

But my dad was a good storyteller, and often taught me lessons using examples. One time he told me how if you stood across the room and moved halfway toward the wall, and then halfway again, and then kept moving only halfway over and over, you would never actually reach the wall.

As a ten-year-old, my mind was blown. You'll never reach the wall if you only move halfway, even if you spend 10 years moving over and over?

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7 Questions to Ask When You’re Feeling Stuck

Do you ever feel stuck? I'm pretty sure we all do at some point. Feeling stuck is like feeling afraid: it happens to everyone, but not everyone gets past it. You win by getting unstuck, not by skipping the process entirely.

When you feel stuck, asking why is often helpful. But just asking "Why am I stuck?" doesn't always work, because feeling stuck can be more of a general sensation than a specific ailment.

So here are a few other questions that might help you figure things out. Ask them to yourself and see what your self has to say.

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“We’re not supposed to fit in, we’re supposed to stand out.”: Agapi Stassinopoulos at WDS

Agapi.Stassinopoulos.WDS.2017.speaker Agapi Stassinopoulos is a best-selling author and speaker who inspires audiences around the world. In her previous book, Unbinding the Heart: A Dose of Greek Wisdom, Generosity, and Unconditional Love, she shares the wisdom from her life’s adventures and experiences. In her new book, Wake Up to the Joy of You: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life, she takes readers on a journey and inspires them to let go of what doesn’t work and instead create the lives they really want.

Beginning and ending her keynote with joy and dancing to the delight of the WDS 2017 community, Agapi challenged us to claim everything we want with 'chutzpah' because we're good people and we deserve it. Agapi shared her belief that each of us carries the light that the earth needs right now.

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