Well, goodbyes are due to 2010 today. Lots of “Wow, hard to believe 2010 is over,” and “See you next year” are being said. And it’s always true that the year seems to go by faster than we anticipate.
But I definitely enjoyed 2010… and am really looking forward to 2011.
Thought in this final day of 2010, I’d write a couple lines about what I learned in 2010 and what I’m most excited about in 2011. So without further ado, a few thoughts to wrap up the year and usher in the new one…
Lessons & Blessings in 2010
For me, 2010 was a pretty packed year. It started off with my first polar plunge with Alli and ended up with me at my new job preparing my 2011 goals, objectives, budget and much more. And in between lots of great experiences with friends, crossing off goals and objectives, running into challenges, meeting new people, closing and opening doors, and feeling ready for what’s ahead.
So what are the key things I learned this last year? Well, here’s a few of the most important lessons (and stories associated with each) I gather in 2010:
- It’s the people, stupid. Over the past year, I’ve really realized how lucky I am to have a great family, group of friends, wife and support system. It can be easy to forget how great the people you know are, but I learned that through some great travels and trips (the fateful Rainier summit attempt!), through a new nonprofit project, through dinners and holidays, through a new job, through an old job, through trips across the country, and through my regular dog walks with Allison. What I’ve recognized is that I’m fortunate to have people around me that I am inspired to know, am thankful that spend time with me, and am fortunate to be able to lean on whenever I need support. Take an inventory of those people and you quickly realize how lucky you are. So thanks (and I do appreciate everyone… you know who you are!)
- Take opportunities (if it matches your passion). This year marked an important career transition for me — leaving Cooley and a legal practice to join a really exciting startup company, Appature. It wasn’t an easy choice (for those that were involved in the decision), but it was definitely the right choice. In my first 2.5 months, I’ve learned an incredible amount, been fortunate to work with really smart people, and am enthused about what is ahead. The real lesson here is that give opportunities a real chance — even if it is risky, or if you are leaving something behind. It seems so obvious now that this was the right choice, but it took lots of thoughtful analysis, discussion and hand-wringing. But the truth is, when all those things align, take the jump — and then make the most of it. I’m so thankful I did.
- Life isn’t a spectator sport. If you know me, you’re probably aware that I’m a big fan of Startup Weekend. It’s one of those activities and organizations that I try and really give back to — but what I’ve learned is that this organization also gives back WAY more than I put into it. I’ve even decided to donate the proceeds of Green Entrepreneur Handbook to Startup Weekend and Kiva. The most important lesson from Startup Weekend is that life is most rewarding when you are playing (and not just a spectator). As a lawyer, I got to see startups all the time, but Startup Weekend has given me a platform and an excuse to play. And in the past year, I’ve been able to see one Startup Weekend Project get sold, another continue to be a product that people use and play, and a new project (501k) get launched with outstanding potential (and named a Top 50 Global Entrepreneurship Winner). Whether it is startups, athletics, writing, or more, it’s about trying things and learning along the way.
- Set goals and keep setting them. My wife always laughs at me with my constant and growing list of goals. But it’s setting those goals (and working to achieve them) that have helped me to meet some of those goals I’ve had. I’ve always been a big fan of metrics (setting goals that have measurable results, so you can see progress). It’s amazing at when you set a target (lose 10 lbs. in 3 months or read 12 books in 2011) that you are much more likely to hit those goals. In my job and personal life, I’ve become an even bigger fan of setting goals.
Go on dog walks (regularly). Earlier this year, Brad Feld wrote a great blog post on how he’s able to find balance with his family. It was inspiring to see how he takes such a thoughtful and organized approach to his personal life and his family. I’ve learned that Alli and I are much more aligned and on the same page when we take Bailey and Riley out for their nightly jaunt. If we forget or get too busy, the dogs get restless — and frankly, so do we. So it’s important to recognize what you need to keep you and your partner on the same track. For us, it’s a walk with the pugs.
Why I’m excited about 2011.
I’ve always been a person that viewed life as a collection of experiences, and that has led me to collect lots of them. And in 2011, I’m excited for a series of new experiences that should make 2011 a great year. I’m looking forward to focusing on growing Appature in a big way, but will continue to recharge my life with things like our dog walks and activities such as Startup Weekend, 501k, ABA and writing a few blog posts now and again. But here’s a list of what I’m most excited about and looking forward to in 2011:
- Appature, baby. Appature. Being a part of a startup is a unique experience unlike anything I’ve ever done. On one hand you’re handling things you never expected you’d do (hiring, benefits plans, sales calls, etc.) and on the other hand you are handed an opportunity to build something and create a company to really make a difference. On both hands, it’s exciting… and that’s why I’m excited and enthused to spend 2011 focused on that great big opportunity. As a management team, we spent 2 days together thinking about 2011 and beyond, and I came aware recognizing the size of the opportunity and all the hard work it will take to realize that opportunity. So I’m excited about a year (and more) of continuing the incredibly hard work and realizing successes along the way. I’ve always enjoyed working hard — and it’s even more rewarding/fulfilling when you are doing that with a team all striving towards those same goals.
- Great, new people on the bus. One of the great things about my job is getting to help Appature focus on building a killer team. And in the past few months on the job, we’ve brought on some great people and have some people that are going to be awesome that (I hope) will be joining us soon (you know who you are… and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead!) I must say as I look around at our company and more broadly my life, I’m really excited about the people I’ll be able to have on my bus this coming year. It’s a great feeling to look out at 2011 and see who is on my bus (or soon will be) that I’ll get to spend 2011 with. That’s exciting…
- 501k. This past year, Ken Kamada, a great friend and I conceived of the initial idea that went on to become 501k. A few months later, we starting building the team that created the prototype for 501k at Startup Weekend, and have since continued to build momentum around the idea and the team. It’s an exciting idea — helping to create a way that individuals can build and create portfolios of charities, share those portfolios with friends and make small, recurring donations to those charity portfolios, all with a few clicks of the mouse. It’s a great project and something I’m inspired by the response and anxious to see the team continue to volunteer their time to build. Look for us to launch by mid-2011 and I’m expecting great things for this idea and team.
- Dr. Koester. For the past 4 plus years, my wife Alli has been diligently working on her research, her coursework and her students in anticipation of being awarded her PhD. By next summer, all of those challenges will be met and Alli will be Dr. Koester. It’s really exciting for her and for me to see that time and hard work pay off. Lots more hard work ahead, but it is really exciting to see her nearing the end of this phase of the journey. There will be the excitement and challenge of identifying a school for her to research with and finding that right fit. Fun times (and lots more conversations on our dog walks.) She’s also excited to start getting letters that say “Dr. and Mr. Koester.” I’m less excited… maybe I need to get a PhD at something. (By the way, my wife already asked why this one isn’t #1… however, I quickly clarified that this list is NOT in order of importance!!! Love you…) On a separate note, I’m excited to travel with Alli a few times this year. It’s something we both enjoy and love to do together, so we’re looking for the right opportunity to get away.
- Becoming “Superhuman.” I started reading Four Hour Body by Tim Ferris a few weeks back where he jokes about finding ways to become “superhuman” and was inspired to find ways to be the best I can be, physically, mentally, spiritually, etc. So that’s another thing I’m excited about in 2011. What that means is finding ways to continue to be active (maybe another mountain climb), ways to improve my brain (read a book now and again) and ways to have fun doing so (a few more Street Scrambles, Alli?) I sometimes forget how much physical activity helps me be better in the rest of my life — and 2011 is about keeping that all in mind.
So, I say thanks to 2010 for a great year and here’s to an exciting 2011 with friends and family. Lots of challenges ahead, but I’m certainly excited for a great year. Looking forward to meeting those challenges together.