One word for 2009: Impact. What’s your theme for the New Year?

January 1, 2009 by Jared Goralnick

Water dropletMuch of life is planting seeds: investing your time in people and projects.  Then, lo and behold, your labor may produce fruit. So now what?

For me, the last few years were full of planting and building.  Now, I have to ensure the work was not for naught; my theme for 2009 is impact.

Past and Present

The real accomplishment of the last couple years has been aligning the activities I love with a business motivation for doing them—i.e., finding a way to really do what I love.  To some extent I’ve had that for a while, but I feel Technotheory, AwayFind, and most of the painful steps toward building a platform are now comfortably mature.

It was a fun but risky process that cost a lot of time and money (more than a year’s worth of both).  However, now I feel that my efforts in writing, speaking, and traveling can reap greater rewards.  I just have to be wise about what I do with those efforts.

With all my decisions, big and small, I’ll ask myself the following question: what will help me to achieve the most impact?

A Deeper Look at Past and Present Impact

I mentioned that my activities and my passions needed re-aligning, and that I wanted to make more impact.  Here’s the story of how I arrived at this conclusion, and what I mean by it.

I’ve always believed in my work at SET Consulting, but a couple things have changed in the last few years:

  • The correlation between most profitable and most enjoyable ended.  I realized that small and large businesses demanded similar support, but the latter had much bigger, more profitable projects.  Sometimes this meant I could be making a big impact on a large company, but more often than not I would find myself restricted in some way from doing exactly what I felt was best for the client, due to some form of red tape.  I was making money, but wheels were spinning and the results of my efforts were no longer as immediately tangible.  It’s useful to be able to say I have lots of household names as clients, but it’s not always the most rewarding work.
  • As a by-product, my client work had become more specific and less high-level.  More management and less hands-on.  Once again, to make a buck you need hours, and it’s easier to spend 40 hours on a proposal generator or a PowerPoint design than it is to give 40 hours of technology adviceFortunately I wasn’t doing those 40 hours of work, but I was managing them.  Though I truly believe in the way we’ve been able to help people to accomplish more with their technology, suddenly I was wrestling with what it meant to have a “good business model”: my work was starting to feel like a job.  Even if I could free up more time for myself, was that really my dream?

My dream and the core of my business was always very simple: to help people to get value out of their technology without finding it as a necessary and time consuming evil.  But how could I play an active role in this, and how I could I reach many more (and different) people?  (It’s not just what you’re doing, but who you’re doing it for.)

There were two ways: I could grow my business to serve more clients, or I could build a product that could reach more (and different) people.  With the 37signals’ story and The Four Hour Workweek ideas fresh in mind, the choice was obvious.

Fast forward through re-launching the blog, building and launching AwayFind, and growing a reputation outside of Maryland and DC.  Now I had a platform.

Making an impact is essentially taking advantage of this platform to reach more people.  It’s not about popularity, it’s about changing people’s relationship with technology.

What I can do to reach more people and to affect this relationship is what I’m taking about as my theme for 2009.

What I Can Do.

There’s a great deal I can do in 2008, and I have a series of goals written down.  If you’d like to hear exactly what they are, let me know, and I’ll email them to you or perhaps write a follow-up post.  I just don’t want to look like a jerk by getting into specifics like “speaking at Office 2.0” and other tangible goals that might make me look like a jerk because I’m aiming high.

What Can You Do?

I walk a fine line on this blog by sharing so much of my own experiences; it can be easy to skip past where I hope you will take these ideas.

I hope that you will come up with a resolution for yourself, perhaps with 3 specific words like Chris Brogan suggested, or perhaps with one theme as I have done above.  Over the course of the year, you’ll want to ask yourself, “Is this furthering X?”

In addition, it would be helpful to list out a few concrete goals to help back up the theme.  But keep it simple so that you have a chance at actually succeeding.

And, if there’s anything you can do right now that will ensure your commitment, get it out of the way (for instance, I’ve already bought several plane tickets to visit some of the people who I think will help me to achieve the greatest impact).  Here are some other commitment hacks.

Further Inspiration

I would love to hear some of your insight, resolutions, or suggestions for 2009.  Thank you to many of you for sharing your lessons learned in my 2008 lessons learned blog post.  I also recommend reading Tim Ferriss’ (his are very specific), Chris Brogan’s, Colleen Wainright’s, and…  Please do share yours below!

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13 Responses to “One word for 2009: Impact. What’s your theme for the New Year?”

6 Trackbacks

  1. Get your motor runnin’: A 21-Day Salute™ | communicatrix
  2. 2009 Is Going to Be YOUR Year! — Mark Hayward
  3. – On themes, jealousy, and focus
  4. – 2009, part 2: ideas for making this next chapter a promising one
  5. – Looking back at 2009: successes, failures, lessons learned…and a bonus
  6. 2014 = FOCUS | John F Croston III


  1. communicatrix

    Thanks for including me on that short list of august personages.

    We may want to warn people about the, er, language on mine. I think Brogan and Ferris are better at keeping a civil tongue in their head.

    Oh–and as an aside? Prepare to be HEAVILY leaned upon for advice & inspiration in 2009.

  2. mark_hayward

    Hey Jared – Happy New Year! There is nothing (and I mean NOTHING) wrong with aiming high, so I hope you list out your goals in a future post (or email them to me). :)

    I read the post over at Brogan’s site earlier today and I think you have chosen a phenomenal word in “impact.”

    The one word I keep coming back to describe my ’09 is “helpful.” At this point, I am not really sure where the economy is going, but if my skill set can be useful, I would like to assist small business owners who would like to dip their toe into the social media pool. Or educate folks on how they really can “escape the cube” and pursue their dreams.

    Either way, really looking forward to reading about your exploits and gaining some inspiration from you here at Technotheory.

  3. Tom –

    Great post! I would say that 2009 for me is all about ‘Setting myself up’. I see it as a year of planning and sowing for great things to happen in years to come.

  4. Victoria Pickering

    Thanks for your open analysis of how and why you are making choices about your work and life. I’d love to see your complete 2009 goal list, either in the blog or by email, and have no doubt that you will achieve the impact you want in the near future.

    My own goal lists are typically pretty endless, so I like the short 3-word approach – for me, it would be creativity, curiosity, and sharing – plus the ability to take care of the rest of my life so that my real goals don’t get derailed.

    Best wishes for 2009!

  5. Jared Goralnick

    Communicatrix, I’m always here to listen. As for whether I can provide any advice and inspiration, that’s TBD ;-). Great thoughts on the New Year’s though, I’ll be watchin’ you!

    Mark, I need to keep you front in mind as I hope to find an opportunity for you one of these days. You do great work and I continue to enjoy your blog. Have a wonderful ’09!

    Tom, thank you : ). Setting yourself and planting the seeds is a fun part of the voyage, and I wish you much luck with it!

    Victoria, “near” is relative, it may be some time before any or all of these things happen. Wouldn’t life be grand if finances didn’t play a role? Okay, I don’t really believe that, but wouldn’t it be a nice thought to not have to think about money? As for your 3-words, that sounds great! Happy 09 to you, too!

  6. Michael Martine – Remarkablogger

    Thanks for sharing your story, Jared. It was great to see how you arrived at this word.

    My word for 2009? Process. As in, get some. I’m reaching the point where I need to establish processes and systematize things.

  7. Maria | Never the Same River Twice

    Jared, this is one of your best posts in a long time. I’m not a big fan of traditional New Year’s resolutions, but I do think it’s helpful to have a theme, or a general direction, to guide actions over the year.

    In my online life, my theme for the year is “Reach Out.” I’ve been late getting too involved in the “social” aspects of social media, so that’s going to be a big portion of my work.

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