Happy New Year.
Before we jump into 2024, many of us might spend some time reflecting back upon 2023. Among the many questions we ask ourselves are those related to accomplishments; What did we do? What do we have to show for the year? What did we produce?
As I look back, I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked with or been supported by so many talented, wonderful people and organizations that have allowed me to produce more than a handful of things that I can take pride in.
I’ve worked with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Burness Communications to help produce the essay series, Beyond Borders for the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Contributors shared what communities are doing around the world to improve the lives of their people – in the hope that it might inspire new ideas here.
With the same foundation, we continued to develop essays for the Fast Company series, How Healthy is the Future of Work and helped stage two learning events featuring Brandon Ogbunu and Erica Walker who are redefining what it means to be a researcher.
With the support of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, we launched a new series called Moving Up in Communities – also with Fast Company. Each essay profiles the innovative work being done in towns across the country to help people move up in life.
Speaking of moving up, a long desired project has finally gotten off the ground with the soft launch of a Social Mobility Lab at the Colin Powell School of Global and Civic Leadership at City College.
Also along the educational front, I produced another section of Creative Team Dynamics at the Parson’s School of Design – which may have been one of my most rewarding classes to date.
Again with support from EHRP, I was able to write this piece for Greater Good Magazine that looked at the seminal role attribution plays in how we think about where we end in life.
Attribution is also the name of our podcast which produced seven new episodes this year and featured guests ranging from Deepak Chopra to Joy Oladokun to Stephanie Land. The podcast would not be possible without the support of PBS’s Chasing the Dream initiative, NPR station WLIW and the editing skills of Luke Robert Mason
That same group also supported the production of three new NPR specials. Two – The Checklist and Libraries of Belonging – examined the issue of social isolation among older adults and were funded by the New York State Department of Education. The third was a reflection on the 50th Anniversary of Piano Man and featured an interview with Billy Joel discussing our changing definition of success.
Thanks to my publisher Penguin/Random House, my excellent editor, agent and illustrator, I now two new children’s books in production. The first of which, America’s Dreaming, will come out on June 4th.
And of course, I’ve produced 52 editions of these weekly notes.
These notes like everything listed above are created with the hope but uncertainty that they will have some impact.
We all produce many things through our work, side hustles and passion projects. I find taking a full accounting of them at the end of the year and sharing them with others is a useful practice – even at the risk of coming off as a humble brag. I do so with the hope that it might not only encourage myself to keep going but inspire others to continue the important work they do.
For example, I wonder if my brother ever calculates the number of Harley’s he’s helped build last year. My estimate would be in the thousands. Or if friends who are nurses and doctors take an accounting of how many people they’ve helped feel better.
Of course it’s not just the quantity but the quality that counts.
My wife sells houses. Recently, a client sent her a picture of their living room decorated for the holidays with a wonderful note thanking her for making their first Christmas in their new home possible.
Of course most of what we produce has little to do with our work. Among my favorite productions are the trips we took this past year and the memories that they in turn produced. Chief among them was the smile produced when I surprised my mother with a visit on her birthday.
We produce so many moments that, while ephemeral, define what has made a year, and eventually a life. As I look back on 2023, I think of moments big and small from a wonderful anniversary night with my wife to the look of pride on my children’s faces in their own accomplishments on the field, in the classroom or on the stage to the laughs around our kitchen table or couch.
To produce something means to “cause something to come into existence.” This includes the smiles, laughs, feelings of gratitude, appreciation and love that if not for you would not be.
2023 is in the rear view mirror now but before it recedes too far I hope you take the time to look at all that you have produced. Write them down and share it with others.
By remembering and sharing all the good we try to put in the world, it can lead to the production of more of it.
May we all produce more wonderful things in 2024.