It's September – How are your New Year’s resolutions going? Are you making good progress? Stalled out? Or scratching your head saying, “Oh yeah, what were those again?”
As I detailed in my account of the 18 Questions I asked myself to create an amazing 2018, this year I decided to reflect on a series of prompts that would help me do more of what I found meaningful and less of what I didn’t.
I built a workcation around answering the 18 Questions, heading out to a cheap Airbnb near Joshua Tree. The results were pretty amazing. I discovered I had actually accomplished quite a lot last year. I was able to distill what about my happiest and most excited moments made them that way; and equally valuable, what I found frustrating, depressing, and anxiety-inducing about the down moments. That led to a list of goals and ideals to pursue in the new year.
While I've done a number of workcations in the past that included journaling and planning as well as putting in real work on some projects, this was the first trip that was entirely focused on where I was and where I was going.
It was such an inspiring and productive exercise that I knew I didn't want to wait until the next new years to start the reflection process. Recently, with the midpoint of 2018 in my rearview mirror, I knew it was the right time to take a look at how things are going and adjust and/or celebrate going into the rest of the year.
This road trip was the perfect opportunity. Primer reader and contributor Shane Martin, who you'll recognize from around the site, is also intensely self-growth focused, and we have a lot of thought-untangling sessions and personal strategy discussions. We also serve as accountability partners for setting habits and getting big goals done. New projects, relationships, and other life-happenings meant we were both due for some catch up time. Chevrolet reached out about the opportunity to test drive their electric Bolt on the windy roads of Northern California, and we knew the road-time would give us a chance to do a mid-year check-in.
I tossed my journal with the 18 Questions and a few potential Getups in a weekender, and hopped a flight.
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A Modest Proposal For Regional Adventures
Let me try to convince you of something: Stop insisting amazing travel requires flying long distances and start looking for adventure close to home.
For this trip, Shane and I took a regional flight from LA to SF that lasted all of 90 minutes, we grabbed a bite and picked up our ride, a new-car-smell fresh Chevy Bolt EV – an all-electric hatchback.
Approximately 2 hours after I walked out my front door that morning, we were headed south on Highway 1 and the adventure had begun. Can you have that if you’re flying to Europe, Asia, or even Hawaii?
I’m not against long-haul flights to exotic locales, but the convenience of a regional trip to an amazing location just across state lines saves both time and money you can spend on seeking out new experiences, instead of catching a transfer. If you’re like me, the thought of full day travel plus jet lag can be really hard to justify within a busy work schedule. That means I usually end up forgoing trips out of town.
If that sounds like you too, the answer is simple: Find amazing, hidden adventures closer to home.
The Drive: Is This America? Or Scotland?
Here’s how to escape San Francisco and be on another continent: strike west until you pick up Highway 1; proceed south.
That’s it. That’s all it takes to feel like you’re not in Kansas anymore.
On your left are stands of eucalyptus trees rising above mossy rocks and bonzai-like shrubs. It’s a cross between James Cameron’s Avatar fever dreams and what I imagine Scotland to look like. Heck, the air smells different.
On your right, sheer cliffs drop to the Pacific Ocean, bigger and wilder than anything you’ll see at the tourist beaches of southern California.
Then there’s the road. Highway 1 is not for meek drivers, with tight twisties and stretches where it drops to one-lane due to rock slides and washouts. The Bolt was agile and responsive, but the real intensity comes when you’re powering out of a turn. Because it’s all-electric, with no gears or transmission, the driving experience is all torque. Instant, aggressive, and fun to drive.
It's hard not to feel like I'm in an old action movie car chase on these roads – especially since this area has been used as a stand-in for Scotland, Ireland, and other parts of Europe in movies for decades. Even Return of the Jedi was shot in the nearby Redwood parks.
The Stay: Grape-Based Booze And A Garden-To-Table Meal
Shane and I had a chance to catch up on the two and a half hour drive south and east to Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA, but after shuttling over to Folktale Winery and starting a wine tasting the good ideas (and times) started to flow.
Over dinner, Shane and I had a chance to really assess where we were at for the year. The questions are familiar to anyone who cares about their personal development: Am I happy with the progress I’m making on my goals this year? Are my habits helping or hurting what I'm trying to achieve ? Is my energy going to the right projects?
And perhaps the most important question: I made a plan… is it working?
The biggest place people get in trouble with setting goals (and New Year resolutions) is they fail to account for two things. And both require an acknowledgement in advance that you may need to alter the original plan. First, the biggest, you have to recognize that any change in habit, routine, or thinking will require an adjustment period. For many folks, at the first realization that they haven't met their new diet or novel-writing goals they consider the whole thing a failure and give up.
The second place is not taking time once you've started your new plan to assess if you're still pointing in the right direction. For many goals – losing weight, starting a business, improving your marriage – the most important thing is starting. It's not until the engine is humming that you should step back and assess whether the engine is driving you on the best and most efficient path. Or, more importantly, now that you're on this path, are you sure that's still the best place for you to go?
Analyzing the results of the mission so far and determining a change is needed or something isn't working doesn't make you a failure, it makes you an effective leader.
Since my New Year’s workcation, I’ve been thinking a lot about Time Ferriss’s slogan, “What would this look like if it were easy?” It's a strategy for envisioning simpler, more effective processes and getting rid of a lot bloat we've come to assume is necessary. As a perfectionist, I often find myself doing things the hard way in search of the ideal outcome I see in my head. Evaluating my workflows with “What would this look like if it were easy” in mind has allowed me to let go of some of my internal limitations and be more effective at clearing projects.
Bit by bit, I’m learning the age old principle of, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.” Or done!
I’ve always done this exercise solo before, but having Shane there as a sounding board was extremely productive. As two guys who try to be thoughtful about our time and energy, it was great to run down what’s been going well… and what needs improvement.
The Value of a Great Drive And A Mid-Year Check-in
The next day it was back in the Bolt and another brain-meltingly gorgeous drive on the famous 17 Mile Drive at Pebble Beach. Rugged rocks and a hazy coastline make it feel even more like some remote Irish Isle. Or a Speyside crag where old craftsmen make single malt.
We even stopped and had a golf lesson from a golf pro at Pebble Beach, America's #1 public golf course. I'm still terrible, but it was a lot of fun.
Not knowing how the weather would be, I actually overpacked a bit. The Bolt’s cargo space was surprisingly roomy for what is technically a compact car, and the driver controls made it easy to stow water bottles, phones, and morning coffee up front.
The integration of Apple CarPlay, which allows the large center console screen to mirror the music, messaging, and map apps from your iPhone is a welcome fusion of our daily carry tech and our daily driver.
And while I've driven electric hybrids a number of times, the all-electric Bolt EV made me realize the notion that electric cars are somehow low-performance and impractical was completely antiquated. They're fast off the line, get the equivalent of 120 miles to the gallon, and the infrastructure has expanded impressively. Similar to the introspective questions I was asking myself that weekend, I realized people would no longer be asking if an electric car was right for them, but why am I specifically choosing to buy a gasoline-powered one?
Once again on the twisties, tunes rocking, I was amazed at how a simple change of scenery can lend perspective to things. Before I left, I was feeling frustrated about my mid-year progress – the list of projects to complete… and then another long list to begin made it seem like I was spinning my wheels.
On the road and in a remarkably scenic place, I counted up my wins: exciting projects for Primer, a new entrepreneur collective I joined to get mentoring on how to take things to the next level, and quality maintenance on my most important relationships.
This trip reinforced a valuable lesson I’ve been slowly learning over the last couple years: You don’t have to go to Hong Kong or Paris to have an amazing, productive adventure.
Hop a regional flight, get a car, and for a modest amount of money have a compelling experience to help re-guide you for the rest of the year. Call up your buds and hit the road. No need to plan anything exotic or elaborate.
As Shane and I headed back up the coast north to San Francisco, we flipped a coin for who would drive the last two hours.
Shane won, so I got to pick the jams. Old school Tenacious D all the way home.