My 3 Words For 2019

This is my annual My Three Words post. This post is primarily something I do for myself though I hope it is useful for you to think about as well. This year’s post is a little long, but I have a lot to unpack from last year going into this year, and these may be my most ambitious three words yet.

See previous years: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013

First, a Retrospective

2018 was, without a doubt, one of the most amazing yet challenging years of my life.

  • My agency was acquired in December of 2017. So, I was starting an entirely new phase of my career.
  • I also got married in December of 2017 (privately) and then had our wedding ceremony in September 2018. (we got married by a unicorn and crushed our first dance)

So, 2018 was a year of adjustment for me which is why I made one of my words for 2018: Adapt.

My other words for 2018 were Appreciate and Ahead.

Appreciation was about giving myself some recognition for my accomplishments. That was a tough one and it’s one I’ll continue to work on, but I definitely made some progress.

Ahead was about getting ahead of things including debt and finally feeling as though I’m making significant progress toward my future that includes having kids, owning a house, having investments, and saving for retirement. On this one, there was definitely progress and I just have to remind myself to be patient and take things one step at a time. It definitely my best year in over a decade and I anticipate that things will continue to improve.

Looking back, there are a number of things I want to improve upon for 2019. So let’s get to my three words for 2019.

My Three Words 2019

This was a challenging year to come up with three words because there are SO many things I want to work on and I also hate re-using words. But after, literally, two months of thinking about my words, I’ve found three that feel right.


One of the elements of my life that has emerged over the last few years is my interest in effective leadership. This past year was my biggest opportunity to grow as a leader. In 2017, I had a small team of less than 5 people. Now our team exceeds 30. While I do not directly oversee everyone in the agency, I feel as though it is my responsibility to be available to help each and every one of them succeed. It is my job to show up and be a calm and guiding force through the tough times and an amplifier of our successes during the good times.

I am hard at work learning as much as I can about how great leaders work. At the same time, I am solidifying my own frameworks and principles of leadership.

The outcome of this work has been writing and coaching. I am nearly halfway through my book on leadership, The Lovable Leader. I’m also coaching several different people on their own leadership journey.

This is one of the directions I want my career to take me. I love coaching others and helping them resolve conflicts effectively, or stand powerfully in their role able to motivate and mobilize their team members.

Seth Godin often talks about being a professional. “A Professional” is someone who shows up and does the work every day, because that is their job… it is what they get paid to do. But, just being paid for a job doesn’t make you a professional. You are a professional when you show up everyday, regardless of how you feel, or how much inspiration is running through your system.

I will remind myself that leadership is something I must exhibit day in and day out. In 2019, I’m making leadership a central theme and I’ll be talking and writing about it on a more regular basis.


In 2018, I wrote less, posted to social media less, and delivered less speaking engagements than any year since 2011. On the surface, not all of those things are bad. However, it doesn’t sit right with me.

I retreated and I got shaken.

I stopped believing that what I had to say mattered. I didn’t want to be just another voice. As a speaker, I’d been working my material and hit a point of paralysis. I’m part of a network of amazing speakers, I felt inadequate. As a content producer I wondered if in the sea of content flooding the web, does anyone really need what I have to offer, or care about my perspective?

The web makes validation a tricky minefield.

Because of followers counts, or engagement rates, or income (real or perceived), it can be daunting to even get in the game, or stay in the game. This is especially true if, like me, you perceived that so much of the “wrong” crap getting attention and validation. But, much like how I feel about Taylor Swift, perhaps I’m just not their audience… and my negativity and judgement is getting me nowhere.

Every single person who has ever succeeded, had to stop seeking validation or approval at some point.

So I decided to ask myself a different question:

How can I best use the skills I have to benefit and provide value to others?

My focus in 2019 is going to be about having the discipline to finish and deliver as much helpful and useful content as I have to offer. In many ways, I feel as though I’m starting over. I’m trying to rebuild my audience, create new speaking topics, and feel good about how I show up on stage or in my content by going all-in.


In 2018, I was invited to join the board of an organization called Council For Relationships (“CFR”). CFR is a non-profit that provides mental health services to anyone regardless of their ability to pay.

This organization has changed my life in two important ways.

The first is that I have not been nearly involved enough in causes that are important to me. Supporting CFR is exceptionally rewarding because I know how important mental health services are for the homeless, veterans, survivors of sexual abuse, and of course, every single human being on the planet. Helping this organization thrive fills my soul.

OK folks, time for some vulnerability. The second reason that this organization changed my life is that for the first time since I was 8 or 9 years old, I started seeing a therapist, through CFR.

From the trauma of my mother’s catastrophic accident on my last day of high school, to divorce, to the early days of running my agency, there is no shortage of tough situations in my past. I’m not special in having difficulties in my life and truthfully I feel very lucky that my life has worked out so well…and it is THAT perspective that stopped me from going to a therapist for so long. I didn’t feel justified in needing help. I wouldn’t allow myself to feel sad, scared, inadequate, or anxious. Acknowledging the feelings felt weak, it felt disrespectful to people who suffered “real” trauma… because my problems certainly weren’t “real.”

But that wasn’t true for me, and if you’re feeling that way, it’s not true for you.

I’ve let myself carry the burden for far too long and I haven’t given myself the space to heal and grow as a person because of it.

Many people know me as a lively, energetic and happy person. For the most part, that is true. I yearn to bring brightness to a world that can otherwise feel dark and gloomy. Reading the news these days can sink anyone into a funk. Comparing your reality to the fake digital persona of others can leave you feeling empty and inadequate.

But I cannot be bright if I don’t take care of me. I cannot lead others if I am not strong enough to carry the pressure.

In 2019, I am going to make a concerted effort to ignore that which does not lift me up and brighten my life. I am going to give myself the space to need help from others. I am going to take care of myself, so that I can be in a position to serve others and make the impact in the world that I need to. And I will be patient with myself so that I don’t stop myself from achieving who I know I can be.

Here’s hoping that you have an amazing 2019. Thanks for reading.

And if you feel so inclined, put your three words in the comments and let me know how I can support you.



What do you think?

What did I miss? What did I get wrong? Help build this idea with me by leaving a comment below.

3 replies on “My 3 Words For 2019”

  • Grant Crowell
    January 1, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    “Every single person who has ever succeeded, had to stop seeking validation or approval at some point.” Wholly agree, Jeff! Thank you for being vulnerable here and giving me great leadership advice this year during my own challenging time. Here are my three words: Creative, Quirky, Connected.

    • January 1, 2019 at 7:54 pm

      Thank you for commenting on this Grant. It means the world to me. I love your three words. I think they fit you perfectly as you are already creative, quirky, and connected. How are you hoping these three words help you grow and what can I do to help?

  • January 2, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    Real good stuff, Jeff! — no pressure, but still open for coffee or tea sometime! I work at 15th and Market!

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