HUGH CULVER

Goodbye 2023

Updated to Life on January 6, 2024.

Like so many years recently, this one felt pretty messy. 

Our news feeds were full of wars, surprisingly blatant criminal shenanigans of politicians, inflation resulting in a painful string of interest hikes, and AI now threatening the future of many jobs. 

But, here’s the thing…none of that matters.

I have my life to lead. I get to choose what I pay attention to, what fights I take on – or walk away from – what morals I live by, and the people I choose to hang out with. 

Making choices comes with the job of living – and we all make bad ones. That’s part of the deal. Fortunately, more often than not, we get to make a lot of good ones. 

That’s what this post is about—making good choices.

This year I’m focusing on making good choices in four quadrants of my life. None of these are slam-dunk easy for me and that’s why I picked them. 

In this short piece, I’m sharing a bit about how I managed each quadrant this past year and offering you a small ambition to consider in your life this year.

Relationships

Sometimes I treat relationships like a car. I’m all excited to get the new one, but I quickly forget how special it is and assume it will always be there when I need it.

This year I moved some relationships forward and did a lousy job with others. “We are afraid to care too much,” wrote Eleanor Roosevelt, “for fear that they do not care at all.”

Even as I write this, I’m dumbfounded at how many opportunities to reach out I ignored either because I thought they would be too busy, or I felt I was too busy. 

My guess is that neither was ever the case.

We need people in our lives to make life real. And people need us in their lives for the same reason (in this piece I wrote about asking for what you need.) As long as I keep treating my friends and partner like my car I will get what I deserve.

Ambition. Who do you need to reach out to? It could turn into a long catch-up conversation or just a thoughtful voicemail. Either way, you’ve done something good. For both of you.

Creative

Being creative is a part of living.

I love the feeling of creating something and seeing it to completion. At the start of the pandemic, we were stuck at home, and I explored my fantasy of expressing myself with simple cartoons. I set a goal of having one sketch done by the time Donna got to her morning coffee. I wrote about that journey here.

This year I went through those sketches, added a few more, and started to recreate them on my iPad into something closer to a final product. The results aren’t very slick, but I’m giving myself permission to be not very good. 

When I (nervously) announced these were going online I was surprised by the response. I got more emails of support than any other blog post I’ve ever shared and some 1,500 of you headed to my site to have a gander. You can see the growing collection here.

Ambition. How can you be a little bit more creative this year? It could be anything – writing, painting, knitting, music, or even exploring a new path on your morning walk. “Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” Thoreau

Giving back

Since selling my business, I’ve been able to dedicate more time to helping local charities and not-for-profits I care about. And although at times it’s been intense, I’m encouraged by how rewarding it’s been.

This year the project I’m leading to rebuild our local paddle centre reached a new level of intensity with time running out to reach a deal with our City, raise money, and start construction. 

Meanwhile, I joined the Board of a society that manages trails in three of our most heavily used local backcountry parks. I wrote about this journey here.

I like a challenge and both groups offer as much challenge as I’m willing to take on. “Those who are happiest,” wrote Booker T. Washington “are those who do the most for others.”

Ambition. Where could you pitch in with a local charity or not-for-profit? You might just discover that skills and experiences you undervalue are gold to them.

Mind the store

A part of living is to take care of the store – our mental and physical health and our finances. It’s easy when you’re young, all your parts work and you have a long career ahead of you. Not so easy as you get old.

I’ve written a lot about habits and discipline, but that’s only a part of the picture. You first have to know what’s important and have a goal that inspires you. Sometimes the goals aren’t as obvious as competing in the Boston Marathon for my 65th birthday. 

All too often, I speak with someone who wants to change a behaviour – like getting off social media, or just eating better, but they haven’t got a big enough reason why this is important.

If you want to close a gap in your life, your first job is to get super clear on why this matters to you. At some point – maybe a week from now, or a month – you will be tested. The stronger your reason why, the stronger you can be at resist quitting.

Ambition. “If you’re bored with life – you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things,” wrote Lou Holtz “you don’t have enough goals.”

Where is a gap you need to close with your physical, and mental health or finances? What is your big reason for going to work on this? 

Goodbye 2023

It always struck me odd how much attention we give to a new year. After all, we can start anything we want any day of the year, not just on January 1st. My ambition is to hold the attitude of new year, but on every day of this year. 

I hope you join me.