Two Essential Lessons I Learned in 2012

In my previous post, I asked you to share the lessons you learned in 2012. Many of you participated, and the insights were wonderful. Thanks! Now, I’d like to share what I’ve learned. 🙂

To be honest, 2012 was a transitional year for me. Outwardly, I didn’t achieve much, but I gained many insights on the inside that I believe can shape my life for years to come.

While there are others, here are two essential lessons I learned in 2012:

1. Clarify your WHY.

A few months ago, I read Start With Why by Simon Sinek. The book discusses the importance of having a clear cause (which the author calls WHY). I have always had a cause in my mind, but reading the book sharpened it and renewed my commitment to it.

Previously, my one-liner was, “Helping people live life to the fullest.” In recent months, however, I shortened it to just three words: “Helping people grow.” I chose to use the word “grow” because it encompasses my values. This short but meaningful statement makes my cause sharper.

Of course, the real challenge is not to make the statement, but to live by it. I hope that this blog can become a medium for that.

2. Set clear deadlines.

This is basic, I know, but I had a project in 2012 that I couldn’t complete because I didn’t set a clear deadline for it.

As I wrote in my post about expanding personal capacity, you need to take on new challenges to expand your capacity. In 2012 I took on the challenge of writing an e-book. I finished the first draft in the first few months of the year, but then I got sidetracked by other projects. Last month, I went back to the e-book project and tried to finish it before New Year. I couldn’t make it.

Had I set a clear deadline, I probably would have finished it by now.


Those are my two lessons from 2012. Now that we have learned all these lessons, let’s make this year our best year ever!

Photo by Kıvanç Niş


  1. Have you ever read David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done”? He talks about setting next actions. Writing down the very next thing you need to do before you can go on to the next thing. Maybe this would be of help to you in setting actionable goals.
    Sometimes I think it’s easy to set goals because obviously we think we can achieve them. But then the circumstances in our life might change and we find we need to be flexible. I’m learning not to beat myself over the head if I can’t make everything happen like I want.

  2. I always found it hard to stick to deadlines but I got introduced to something called producteev. It’s a site kind of like a ‘to do’ list.
    Usually i’d have heaps of paper sitting around with stuff written on it and forget to look. Having it on a browser page helps me build the habits I want.

  3. Hi Donald.
    People without a WHY drive fast, but in the wrong direction. It is better to take a small step in the right direction than a huge step in an unknown direction.

  4. Great lessons to learn! These are things I am also trying to focus on for 2013. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Shorterning your one liner gives it more focus and clarity. Often we can start with hazy ideas that gradully come into focus and can then be captured really sharply.
    Writing books takes time (mine took loads longer than planned!). Sometimes we need to replan once we understand a bit more what we’re doing. Getting back on track is as important as setting a target.

  6. Hey Donald:
    Thanks for sharing your lessons learned in 2012 with us and I agree with both of them. The WHY in what we do is what matters the most. If you do not know why you are doing what your doing or you forget then what it is that your doing can become pointless in your eyes and in the eyes of others. Also, I like what you said about deadlines in some cases. For my blog, posting, writing, etc I don’t set deadlines. I just do it for the enjoyment and I have found that with deadlines I tend to enjoy the process less and less when it become hard to meet the deadlines. But, I do set deadlines like I started learning Hebrew and I am giving myself to the end of 2013 to focus on it as my main practiced language then in 2014 I plan to practice another language. For the most part, those are the type of deadlines I set.

  7. Donald, I love reflective posts where I learn from someone else’s experience. I appreciate the ‘start with why’. When you analyze what you are doing, you can eliminate so much that doesn’t fit within WHY.

  8. Hi Donald! I discovered your blog through zenhabits and I’m thoroughly inspired.
    Expanding on your point for “setting clear deadlines” I feel that you should break up your personal projects into small steps and mark down goal posts in how you will achieve them. E.g., write chapter 1 of my book by week 1.
    Maybe incorporate it into your daily schedule by setting a certain “time block” for the project would work well. Once it’s a part of your life, your day would feel incomplete without it.

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