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  • Frank Fortner

A Resolute Playbook For Finishing Well

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

Photo by iStockphoto

Well, here we are on the second day of 2020, in the beginning of a brief, well-intended season marked by earnest resolutions to lose weight, quit vices, spend more time with friends and family, or simply create better versions of ourselves. While I certainly have room for improvement in all those areas, I try to stay away from short-lived, hard-to-keep resolutions in favor of a more long-term personal game plan. So today, I'm reflecting on a few promises I made to myself back in 2019.

You see, for me, 2019 was an eventful year full of major life changes and milestones. For starters, in May, I made the difficult decision to step down from an executive leadership position in a company I helped grow for nearly 25 years. In that same month, I formed a consulting company and simultaneously joined a few long-time colleagues in another. Just a few months later, I was walking my youngest daughter down the aisle, and then in October, I turned 50! Those are the kinds of life events that make most of us pause and reflect, taking personal inventory, and over the past several months, I've had much to reflect on!

During the process, and while I was (technically) still in my 40's, I made seven promises to myself while forming the game plan for the second half of my life and career. (Yes, I'm planning to live to 100!) I think of these promises as a type of personal playbook, which I believe will serve me (and those around me) well in the coming years. You can think of this list as a form of core values developed over my lifetime. 

I will take ownership of my life's narrative. Simply put, I'm determined that life will not happen "to" me as the outcome of someone else's choices. Neither will I accept someone else's version of my story, because nobody besides my Creator has the right to define me. Only my decisions and my actions will write the remaining chapters in my story. This declaration is a vital first step toward finishing well!

I will spend my remaining time focusing on things of value. Time is a limited resource, and we all go broke in the end. I want to spend what's left in my time wallet on things that will matter in the years to come, not merely adding temporary value for today but lasting value for the next generation and beyond.

I will reconstruct my professional inner circle with people of my choosing. Like family, most of us don't get to pick and choose whom we work with in the early part of our careers. Despite that fact, many of us are still fortunate enough to be surrounded by some great co-workers, as I was. The inner circle - those with whom you spend the most hours working closely with - can either be an energizing or a draining influence depending on the mix of personalities. In this second half, I reserve the right to choose mine.

I will work for something more than a paycheck. This one is another of those "hard to do" items, especially when I was younger. Heck, I didn't possess the wisdom or maturity back then to want anything more, but my perspective has morphed over the years. There are many other ways to get "paid" for what you do. Some are intrinsic in value, and some are material, but a paycheck that I depend on someone else for is nothing more than a non-guaranteed, bi-weekly reminder that the first three points on this list are out of my control! 

I will always value people over profits. Businesses exist to make money, and I'm quite fond of healthy bottom lines, having worked incredibly hard to create them. Generating profits ("the extra" after expenses) allows business leaders to reward employees for their contributions, reward customers through future investments in products, and build financial stability for the business. At the same time, I don't agree with highly profitable companies that choose to generate another % point of EBITDA vs. keeping good employees. Sadly, executives who run that play are likely just managing someone else's investment, and (putting it mildly), I have no interest in that. 

I will increase the positive influences around me and decrease the negative ones. Our routines, our diets, our inner circles, our entertainment choices - all of these can act as a positive or negative influence on us. They can energize and inspire or they can drain and demoralize. They can either build us up or tear us down, often in subtle ways. Therefore, I am resolved to practice healthy habits, ingest quality content, and surround myself with positive people who believe in the team, believe in the mission and will fight like hell for both!

I will leave whatever part of the world I touch (no matter how small) better than I found it. This has been somewhat of a mantra of mine for many years. In full disclosure, I'm sure I haven't always succeeded, but it remains a daily, driving goal for every aspect of my life. I believe in it with everything in me, and while I don't try to overanalyze it, I don't think it is OCD-driven or even pride-driven. If anything, it's likely coming from my creative side that envisions how something could be improved, compelling me to act rather than complain about it.

This list makes up only one portion of my second half playbook, but it provides a glimpse into what matters most in terms of how I play the game. Moving forward, and since it's already here, 2020 promises to be another event-filled year, so I'm glad I have a playbook to help me navigate the future, like a "value compass."

What about you? Did anything in the list ring true for you? Do you have your own game plan and playbook for finishing well? You may be well under 50, or perhaps have already sailed past that milestone years ago, but it's never too early (or too late) to think about what truly matters to you and put together a plan to make it happen. Too many 4th quarters end on fields full of regret. Let's resolve not to let that happen! 

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