Let’s call this the Year of New Beginnings. I went into 2017 with two priorities:
1) to deepen my relationship
2) to deepen my practice of coaching
Those priorities helped me stay focused on what was important to me in 2017, despite many competing obligations.
1) I met Tanya in November 2016, and we clicked right away, going on three dates in the first week we knew each other. We saw each other almost every day in December of 2016, and I was excited by the possibilities for 2017. And 2017 was an amazing experience for us. We visited seven countries, spending seven weeks traveling together in total (more details below). We moved in together in August. We survived a kitchen renovation together. We continue to get to know each other better and learn to appreciate our differences. After decades of loneliness and dating disappointments, it is a true gift to find a partner, and I appreciate Tanya every single day.
2) After spending more time coaching and mentoring in 2016, I decided I wanted to take my coaching to the next level, and interviewed five professional coaches last fall to learn how to do that. All five said I should get trained and certified, and two of them highly recommended New Ventures West as the place they had trained. The other coaching institutes I researched felt more cognitive, discussing how to think through problems with a client, an approach which matched my existing strengths.
New Ventures West felt different – there were aspects of Buddhism and spiritualism and somatic body work in their Integral Coaching methodology which made me uncertain whether it would be a good match. But I decided that it would be a good stretch for me to explore aspects that made me uncomfortable, so I took their intro Coaching to Excellence class in January, and entered their year long Professional Coaching Course in February. The PCC is centered around four in-person intense workshops of 4-5 days each every three months, but with a ton of work between each session, including individual coaching calls, group coaching calls, and “pods” where students learn from each other.
This intense program has been life changing in developing a deeper understanding of myself and others through these unfamiliar perspectives. I occasionally feel like a crazy person espousing concepts which I would have previously dismissed as Californian new-agey hippy-dippy spiritualism (mindfulness, felt sense, somatic presence) but I’ve seen them work on me and others, and I’m developing those capabilities in myself. I feel calmer and more relaxed despite having more to do, and that means I’m more productive than ever before.
Of course, I spent more time coaching in 2017 as a result.
- For the PCC certification process, I had to take three clients through a full coaching program, where I met with them for ten sessions each, agreeing to a set of desired outcomes at the start and helping them move towards those outcomes over several months. I learned a lot through the process, but also feel that I helped my clients find new ways to approach their lives to help them get unstuck.
- I also signed up to be a “Career Guru” at Google, volunteering to do one hour career coaching sessions for Googlers looking for guidance. That was been very satisfying for me, as I could see the power of even an hour of focused attention in helping to shift perspectives (and my clients find it useful since I have a rating of 4.9/5 across 15+ sessions).
- I also continued to advise a couple non-profits, and did one off calls with friends as needed.
Coaching was a big time and energy commitment this year, but I continue to find it very satisfying and worth the time. I am not sure how my coaching practice will develop this year, but will reflect on that question after I finish the work I need to do to get certified in February (I still have to read a couple books and write 50 pages of case studies and learnings!).
The flip side of prioritizing my relationship and coaching is that I had less time for other pursuits in 2017.
I’m still working at Google in the same job as Chief of Staff to the Product VP of search ads. I have now been in that role for five years, and have been at Google for nine. The job continues to shift and grow with me, so it continues to be a challenge as Google negotiates its next phase of growth. But I prioritized the job less this year, including taking a two month sabbatical from work in February and March to pursue my own interests, including starting the coaching program and traveling with Tanya to the Philippines, as well as taking off the last two weeks of December to travel to Morocco.
I spent a lot less time on sports in 2017, in part because of my other priorities, but also because I tore up my knee playing ultimate frisbee in July. I went too hard when I was out of shape, but I felt okay on the field so I kept playing. Later that night, my knee seized up, and I was in a lot of pain. It seemed to get better after a couple days, but then I would play sports again, and it would flare up. This pattern continued for a month before I decided to stop sports, then I tried physical therapy for a month, which made it worse to the point where walking a couple blocks was painful, so I finally went to see a doctor. After an MRI, I was informed I had torn the meniscus and cartilage in my knee. After reviewing my options, I had the surgeon do an arthroscopic procedure in October to clean up the rough bits that were causing inflammation. Two surgeons recommended different more invasive procedures (microfracture cartilage replacement, and PCL replacement) but I’m going to see how I do with the more minor cleanup first. With a couple months of physical therapy, I can walk normally again but not much more than that – even running is still too much impact. So that’s been a bummer since sports has been a huge part of my life, but I’ll keep strengthening the knee and hope I can work my way back to my former strength. On the flip side, the couple months where my knee hurt so bad that walking was painful made me really appreciate mobility. I’m so grateful to be able to walk again now and will not take it for granted.
I also didn’t see my friends in 2017 as much as I would like to, including only hosting a few salons and BBQs. While my relationship and coaching are new and exciting, I still very much value my friendships and communities and need to make time for them. My one 2017 accomplishment in that respect was co-hosting Overlap, which was a bunch of work in the early part of this year but was so rewarding to help curate this experience for the community I have found so valuable.
Of course, no 2017 retrospective would be complete without addressing the political situation in the US. It has been a depressing year, especially learning that many fellow Americans continue to support Trump and think that winning at all costs is what matters. Their disdain for helping those less fortunate and appreciating other perspectives shows a sad level of fear and isolation. At the national level, I have donated to the usual groups like ACLU and Planned Parenthood, and subscribed to the New York Times and Washington Post so they can continue exposing issues with our government. On the personal level, I am trying to promote more diverse perspectives, both with my coaching and with what I link to on social media. I am fortunate and privileged to be somewhat isolated from the chaos by living in Silicon Valley with my wealth and my gender and my ability to pass as white, and I continue to learn how much I am privileged and protected compared to most others.
It’s been a very full 2017. At one point in May, I told Tanya that things would calm down after Overlap, and she laughed at me; she said I had told her “things would calm down after” every month and it never calmed down because I kept adding new commitments when things did calm down on one front. I look forward to 2018 where my relationship and my coaching will likely remain my priorities. Hopefully after certification in February, I will allow things to settle down to give myself space and time to rest and reflect and develop.
P.S. For those that are interested, here’s my ridiculous travel schedule in 2017 (with links to pictures) (not including a bunch of time in Tahoe):
- February 4-15: Philippines, including island hopping near Coron, trekking through spectacular rice terraces near Banaue, and visiting Manila and Tagatay
- February 17-20 (solo): Hilton Head for Up to All of Us
- March 1-4 (solo): Seattle for Re:Think Decision Making, by Farnam Street blog
- March 31 – April 2: Las Vegas for Tanya’s friend’s birthday weekend
- May 26 – 29 (solo): Overlap in the Santa Cruz hills at Sequoia Retreat Center
- June 30 – July 4: Playa del Carmen in Mexico, plus day trip to Tulum
- August 25 -27: Boulder for my college friend’s wedding
- September 1-10: Bulgaria, including Sofia, Burgas on the Black Sea, Plovdiv, the wonderful bridges in the Rhodope mountains, and the Rila Monastery
- October 21-22: Yosemite
- October 28-29: Sonoma
- November 11-14: Hong Kong to join Tanya after her China work trip
- December 19-31: 11 days in Morocco with an overnight layover in Lisbon on the way there, and an overnight layover in Madrid for New Year’s Eve on the way back. Great way to end the year!