My 2016 Integrity Report

Today I am publishing my 2016 Integrity Report. This is a template adapted from James Clear with permission.

I’ve wanted to write something like this for a while, but hesitated because I wasn’t sure how to begin and wasn’t clear on my personal values.

Further, seeing James’ reports, I felt that directly modeling his report would be disingenuous. However, given his direct permission to use the format, and given that modeling others is my first decision making principle, it’s time to write it out.

This is an exercise I plan to do each year to ensure that I’m living in alignment with my values, as best I can. Essentially, my Integrity Reports will keep me accountable by helping me answer the question, “Am I actually living like the type of person I claim to be?”

There are 3 main questions that I will answer in this Integrity Report.

  1. What are the core values that drive my life and work?
  2. How am I living and working with integrity right now?
  3. How can I set a higher standard in the future?

1. What are the core values that drive my life and work?

Below are my core values and some questions that I use to think more deeply about each area. My core values have remained largely the same, but each year I tweak them a bit. My guess is that this will continue as self-discovery is a lifelong process.

I. Growth

  • Am I learning new things, exploring new places, and experimenting with new ideas?
  • Am I questioning my limiting beliefs and trying to overcome them?
  • Am I building habits that lead to continual improvement?

II. Self-Respect

  • Am I fulfilling my potential?
  • Am I giving myself permission to be happy with where I am right now?
  • Am I living like the type of person I claim to be?

III. Grit

  • Am I mentally and physically strong?
  • Am I preparing for unexpected challenges?
  • Am I taking steps to overcome the challenges in my life?

IV. Contribution

  • Am I contributing to the world or just consuming it?
  • Am I someone others can count on?
  • Am I helping to make things better for others?

V. Self-Reliance [1]

  • Am I following what I think in order to discover my own path in life?
  • Am I speaking my mind and truth to others?
  • Am I focused on my own situation and letting go of what I can’t control? (Saying NO more often.)

VI. Compassion

  • Am I forgiving myself and others?
  • Am I practicing gratitude for what I have?
  • Am I looking for the best qualities in myself and in others?

VII. Leadership

  • Am I making decisions that serve as a role model for friends, family and colleagues?
  • Am I being a good listener?
  • Am I staying calm and poised under pressure?

VIII. Curiosity

  • Am I reading material that interests me?
  • Am I asking every question?
  • Am I making time to meet with people I’m curious about?

Some of these value are taken from James’ Integrity Report, and some are my own. If you want to create your own Integrity Report, feel free to browse this list of common core values.

Don’t worry about picking “perfect” values; many of these values overlap and encompass each other. For example, Adventure has long been one of my values, but Growth captures the idea of Adventure in a different way. Choose a few that resonate well with you.

2. How am I living and working with integrity right now?

Alright, time for the good news. Here are some improvements I made over the past year to live and work with more integrity.

Writing about ideas of practical significance. One of my key areas of focus as a writer is to cover ideas and stories that are actually useful in everyday life. I can always improve in this area, but I do believe I did a solid job of deliver practical and useful ideas over the last 12 months. Some of the highlights include how to improve yourself and spiritually growhow to relax without drugs or TV, how to set most important tasks, how to make money blogginghow to find silence in big cities, how to truly let gohow to break through ‘happiness plateaus’, and a list of my most important life goals.

Apologizing for my mistakes and righting old wrongs. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in life and continue to make them. I oscillate between two mindsets: trying to “fix” wrongs, or just moving on and focusing on growth. In reading Clear’s Integrity Report, I realized that I could do a better job of responding to my own mistakes. This past year, there were two close friends who I treated in ways that are not in alignment with my values. My first reaction was to get defensive about my behavior, but after getting some space and perspective I apologized to them both.

These apologies lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. In one case, my friend wondered what I was even apologizing for. This showed me that apologizing is as much for myself as it is for others. Having high standards of integrity in my work and relationships means that I am judgemental of myself and often self-critical. By letting others know that I’m sorry, I can move on and focus on building something new together rather than living in the past.

Here are the two biggest lessons I learned from saying sorry:

  1. Justifying or rationalizing your behavior is the wrong approach. Before speaking with my friends, I had very strong reasons as to why I was rightAll that matters is that I own my mistakes and admit it. You don’t need to berate yourself, but don’t water it down either. Just state the facts: “I did X and it was a mistake.”
  2. Make a commitment to improvement. Don’t just tell them that you messed up. What steps have you taken to improve? Show that you care about the mistake so much that you took real action to correct it.

In my experience, having the courage to apologize is a more effective way of letting go than is refocusing on your path (though the latter is often glorified). Having been in both scenarios over the past year, each offers the potential to “escape” from doing what’s right, as such the right decision is situational. But I’ve found that, as I grow up and take full responsibility for everything in my life, apologies are a natural extension of who I am.

Again, following through on that is more for myself than for the person I’m apologizing to. If my apology is insincere, it will continue to corrode my mental and emotional energy.

Today I actually feel stronger because I owned up to my flaws.

Sharing the work rather than hoarding the work. We are sponges, constantly absorbing. I’ve realized that, when I stop absorbing, I stop creating. Everything I write about, I have learned from someone else. I am building upon the work of others, synthesizing ideas and stories, and sharing what I learn with you. I don’t own these ideas and I’m not worried about “getting credit” for my work. What I want more than anything is for my work to help people. This year, I will make a greater effort to just want to contribute something useful to the conversations we have about why and how we live our lives. I will also build and maintain a Thank You page.

Focusing on contribution over compensation. Charlie Munger has a fantastic quote about money, privilege and impact: “People should take way less than they’re worth when they are favored by life… I would argue that when you rise high enough in American business, you’ve got a moral duty to be underpaid—not to get all that you can, but to actually be underpaid.”

I love the idea that once your needs are cared for, it is actually your duty to make the world a better place. This is a philosophy that has guided my actions as an entrepreneur so far and I intend for that to continue.

3. How can I set a higher standard in the future?

Now for the hard part. Where am I currently struggling and what can I do to improve over the next 12 months?

Finding balance between work and relationships. When I started a life of long-term travel in August 2014, I spent the vast majority of my time making friends, networking and generally enjoying travel. Though I worked, it was rare and most of the work was project-based and I had a lingering anxiety, knowing that I was cash-flow negative. Near the end of summer 2015, I started to focus more seriously on building long term assets. That has worked – to a point. I’m less anxious now about finances, but have far more obligations than I did when I started traveling. Currently, I juggle three different online businesses, and a handful of freelance projects. To say that I’ve lost focus on relationships and networking would be a huge understatement. I plan to do better this year, spending more time growing and nurturing personal relationships. My goal is not to ignore or let go of the momentum I’ve built in business, but to systemize everything so that I have more free time to spend with friends and family. As one successful online entrepreneur once told me, “There is no freedom without financial freedom.”

Thank people for their help. While I have done a good job of writing apology letters, I have done a terrible job of writing Thank You notes. A few months ago I read an article titled, “Make Your Life Better by Saying Thank You in These 7 Situations” and vowed to do a better job of thanking others for their help and support, no matter how small. There are some Thank You notes that I should have written long ago that—as I sit here typing away about integrity and responsibility—I still haven’t written.

Return to writing consistently. My entire life is built on consistency. For a large part of last year, I partook in a blogging challenge, writing 1 article every week for nearly 5 months straight. At some point, one of the group members stopped blogging and so everyone followed suit. The result? One of my favorite daily activities — writing — came to a halt, as did the growth of my site.

The good news? I’m back on track with a new streak. Seeing the value of this challenge, I started another one with my roommate and am currently halfway through. Now I’m publishing every Sunday and we’re going to keep that pattern going. I hope to continue the challenge going forward, and perhaps increase it to two posts per week.

Get comfortable in front of the camera. Since I was young, I loved attention, always putting myself in front of crowds and groups. At some point along the way, I lost this desire and since, I’ve yearned to get it back. For the longest time, I’ve set the goal of creating YouTube videos in tandem with writing posts on this site. YouTube offers an excellent opportunity to: i) express my thoughts freely, ii) warm up my vocal chords (working online, it’s possible to go a full day or two without saying a word), and iii) provide more valuable for a larger audience. I’ve filmed a few videos, most of which were quite poor but they felt good to just do. This year, I will lower the bar as low as is necessary to build the habit of filming videos.

The Bottom Line

My hope is that my annual Integrity Reports help me hold myself to a higher standard and build a business that makes life a little bit better for others. I have made so many mistakes in the past and I am sure I will make many more in the future, but I still find it remarkable how often I can screw up and still make progress as long as I am willing to take steps to improve.

As always, thank you for being part of this worldwide community. I’ll do my best to continue delivering ideas and stories that make your life better.

Integrity Report Archives

This is a complete list of annual Integrity Reports I have written. Enjoy!