Bob Cavezza's Blog

I recently heard a Paul Levesque quote about the differences between dreams and goals. “A dream is something you fantasize about that will probably never happen. A goal is something you set a plan for, work toward, and achieve”.

With that being said, there are a few parts of my life I want to improve upon this year. If you’re reading this, you probably know that self improvement has always been important to me. I reflected on 2016 and came up with three specific areas of personal improvement for 2017:

  1. Being More Thorough
  2. Improving My Memory
  3. Telling Better Stories

Being More Thorough

I can be more thorough this year. In my day to day work at CoachUp, I want to become more detail oriented-  specifically when creating pull requests (If you’re not familiar with a pull request, think of it as what you do directly before other programmers look at your code to judge if it is good enough to be used.)

When I was initially planning 2017 goals, I had no clue where to start in order to become more detail oriented. That all changed when I read the Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. I found this book after listening to this interview with Atul and Ezra Klein.

This book taught me that many people working on complex jobs use checklists to ensure they don’t miss the important things. Surgeons, construction workers, and pilots all use checklists as part of their daily routine. I thought it made perfect sense for me to start using checklists as a software developer.

At work, I now keep a file called “Checklists” in a text file. I started with a basic “Pull Request Checklist” that I use when creating a pull request. In the past, I created dumb mistakes in my code that I should have checked before creating a pull request – things that were easy to overlook. Now, I have a list of things I look for in my code before creating a pull request. I started with a basic checklist, and each time I make an error in a PR (pull request), I add the mistake I made to the checklist so I know what to look for next time.

At home, I also have a few checklists I have been using.

At night, I have a two item checklist before going to bed. The two items include writing down notes about the previous day and making sure a book is on my nightstand (this will help with the morning checklist).

In the morning, I have a checklist that has two main items that I must do before touching my phone. Read at least one page in a book. Write something (anything) in my commonplace book.

Improving My Memory

I have never described my memory as amazing. I often forget stories people told me. I’m the person who loses the remote. I constantly misplace my phone and get my wife to call my number so I can find it. I’m not sure what you call this type of forgetfulness or if it can be improved, but I want to try and improve my memory in 2017.

When I started planning for improving my memory, I wasn’t really sure where to start. I was listening to the James Altucher Show one day and Joshua Foer was his guest. Josh wrote Moonwalking With Einstein and it is about Josh’s journey into the cultural world of the World Memory Championships. Not only does Josh learn a lot about the World Memory Championships, but he also competes… and wins first place! This book is half adventure, half actionable memory improving techniques. The book discusses many different ways of improving one’s memory, like the Memory Palace technique, which I may discuss in another post.

While reading the book, I was really impressed by a chapter that discussed how most details could be remembered with triggers from the situation. Imagine talking to an old buddy from college and how you start to remember certain details from college stories you may have previously forgotten. Or think of the vivid details you remember from your childhood when you visit your parents house. Certain triggers can help increase the likelihood of certain neuron synapses happening in your brain that can trigger better memory recall. This helped me develop my own technique of remembering details from important meetings. If I can’t remember an important detail from a meeting or interview, I start writing down details of what I remember someone saying. As I write down things that were said, it starts triggering other memories of things that happened and other things that were said. As I keep writing, I continue to remember more details of what people said and how they said it. The scene almost starts to come alive, even if I originally only remembered one or two sentences. After continuing to write and sometimes getting to a full page of notes, I usually remember the detail that I had previously forgotten.

Oddly enough, this also works when I forget my own thoughts in the shower. I can’t write down my own thoughts in the shower, so after I dry off, I try to write down that key thought or insight I had while in the shower. Sometimes, I don’t remember that “amazing idea” I had in the shower. In order to get it back, I start writing other ideas and thoughts I had in the shower. This triggers another avalanche, but instead of things that were said in a meeting, this triggers an avalanche of thoughts in my own head. As I write down thoughts I had in the shower, this leads to remembering other thoughts I had in the shower, and I typically will remember that key insight that I thought was lost forever.

The second way I’m trying to improve my memory is by taking notes of what I did every morning and every evening. I keep an 8.5 X 11 moleskin notebook on my nightstand with 2 pens at all times. I try to write about things that happened that day, or things I learned. My only rule is that I have to write something before I fall asleep and I have to write something after I wake up. On Monday mornings, I’m the person who forgets what he did over the weekend. Everyone has a good story to tell about the weekend except for me. I’m hoping to solve that problem by keeping these notebooks and having my weekend activities fresh in my mind come Monday morning.

The third way I’m trying to improve my memory is by blogging. James Altucher has a formula for continous learning: “Learn, Write, Teach, Repeat”. I read 20 books in 2016. For many of those books, I can barely remember the key takeaway from the entire book. I remember having dozens of “aha moments” in each book. I wish I still had them in my memory. The best way I can think of to retain more knowledge is to write down key learnings and share it with the world. When I was in 5th grade, I did a report on Harry Houdini. I still remember a few key facts on Houdini 20 years later. He was born on Halloween and he died on Halloween. When you teach or put things in writing, it’s stored in a different part of your brain that makes it more likely you will remember it.

I’m still trying to find a plan to improve my general on the fly memory. Remembering the fact that Jimmy just bought a new condo or where I put my phone is still not in my action plan, but I’m hoping to have a plan to fix that part of my memory in the next few weeks.

Becoming a Better Storyteller

I think I lead an interesting life, but I’m not good at letting the world know – especially in face-to-face situations. On Monday mornings when everyone catches up at the water cooler and discusses their weekends, I never have the most compelling weekend story. I sometimes have the most compelling adventure, but I have trouble converting the adventure into a great story. There’s a few things I want to do next year to improve.

First, I want to tell more stories here on the blog. It’s not the same as telling a story in person, but it will give me the ability to construct stories with a lot of time and editing. Creating a story is creating a story. It doesn’t matter if you’re thinking of the story on the fly based on your memories of the weekend, or editing text 25 times until you are happy with every paragraph, sentence, and word. If your goal is to start creating compelling stories on the fly, your first step should be to create compelling stories with plenty of time and unlimited edits. This is why I want to blog more in 2017.

Second, I want to have every conversation as if my story is super interesting and compelling. Many times, I assume someone thinks what I am saying as boring. If you think someone thinks the story you are about to tell is boring, you will describe events in the story as boring. Your voice will sound as if the story is boring. People will think the story is boring. And worst of all, people will think that your story is boring. It doesn’t have to be the most exciting story of all time, but don’t make it sound boring.

When I tell a lot of stories, I tell them expecting someone to think they will be boring. I should start telling stories thinking people will think they are super interesting. Many times, i go home and I workout, read a book or two, take a bath, write something down in my commonplace book, code a little bit, and go to sleep. I typically describe my day like that to all my coworkers. Of course they hate all my stories. I need to go in depth and tell them that I’m reading books that are helping my horrible memory improve. I need to describe why I keep a commonplace book and how great it helps me. I need to talk about my side projects and how I think they can change how sales and marketing departments will function in a few years. I think I do a lot of projecting. I assume someone will think my story is boring, so I make it boring. I should assume someone will find me interesting, and by association, will think my stories are interesting.

Third, I want to improve the performance aspect of telling stories. I need to record myself telling stories. When you record yourself telling a story, it’s impossible to ignore the cringeworthy parts of the story. When you tell a story and don’t record it, it’s easy to ignore the cringeworthy parts. If you record yourself telling stories, you have the ability to analyze every aspect of that story you told – what worked, and what didn’t work.

Fourth, I bought two books on screenwriting last year and I didn’t read them yet. I found them when I googled how to become a better storyteller. Those books are Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee and Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder. I think reading these books in 2017 will also help improve my storytelling ability.

Wrapping It Up

Those are the improvements I want to make in 2017. As I’m reading over this post while doing last minute edits, I’m really happy with my plan to improve next year. I want to take these areas of weakness and turn them into strengths. Wish me luck!

Are there other things I can do to improve in these areas? Let me know in the comments and I’ll give them a try!

I also have other goals in 2017 that I didn’t focus on in this post. If you’re interested, here’s a list!

Other Miscellaneous Goals for 2017

Write 50 posts

Read 20 books

Deadlift 400 pounds for 4 reps

Bench Press 225 lbs 17 times

Build Curtact into a viable business

§634 · January 2, 2017 · Bob's Goals · · [Print]

1 Comment to “My Key Focus Areas for 2017”

  1. […] goal I left out of my focus areas for 2017 post was trying to get better at drawing. I took a class on Adobe Illustrator in the first half of 2016. […]

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