A single word or a short phrase could permanently change your life.

When you were young, a teacher may have said something to you that forever altered how you viewed yourself—good or bad. Maybe a parent said something that still sticks with you today. Or perhaps a former boss made a comment that drives you nuts to this day—I’m in that boat!

In a similar way, this “My 3 Words” exercise I learned from Chris Brogan is designed to empower you with 3 words that drive your actions and keep you on track to make this your best year ever.

This is the sixth year now where I’ve begun the year by identifying 3 words that will set the course, give me direction, and totally excite me as I move through the year. I write these words at the top of my Daily Outcomes sheet and look at them daily throughout the year.

The premise is simple. Pick 3 words that motivate you, remind you, and guide you on your road to making 2020 your best year ever.

I encourage all my clients to do this and I encourage you to do this same exercise as it will help you stay focused on the most important outcomes for the year.

Here are my 3 words from previous years:

2015:  Implement, Energy, Relationships

2016:  Launch, Leverage, Connect

2017:  Discipline, Deliver, Score

2018:  Spark, Community, Savor

2019:  Practice, Voice, Test

In today’s post, I discuss my 3 words for 2020 as well as review my 3 words for 2019 and discuss how well I executed on them.

First, let’s take a look back at my 3 words for 2019 and see what grades I give myself in terms of how the words guided my actions in the past year.

Review of My 3 Words for 2019

Remember the song, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” from the legendary Meat Loaf? That’s how I feel about how well I lived up to My 3 Words for 2019. As I go through each of the 3 words, I’ll explain why I say that.


I view the word “practice” as both a verb and a noun. As a verb, practice is something you do. I’m very good at this aspect in that I’m disciplined in practicing the things I want to improve—like my health and fitness. And here I’d give myself an “A” in 2019.

As a noun, practice is any type of practice you do on a regular basis as an integral part of your life. For example, you might say I have a meditation practice, or I have a financial planning practice. So using practice as a noun is more about who you are than it is about what you do.

My objective in 2019 was to intentionally take more time to be “in” practice and not just “do” practice. In particular, I wanted to focus on improving my speaking skills and my writing skills. I think I did ok on both fronts.

From a writing standpoint, I wrote more in 2019 that I have since I wrote my last book in 2007. A chunk of that writing came from the weekly Good to Know email letter I started publishing in early 2019. It’s a weekly discipline that not only helped my readers, but also kept me in learning mode all the time as I searched for, processed, and developed content for the weekly missive. When I say, “I’m a writer,” I don’t feel like an imposter.

I put a lot of time into speaking in 2019 as well. I posted a series of short videos on LinkedIn and experimented with the format and content. I also spoke on a bunch of webinars for ROL Advisor and recorded more than 60 podcast episodes across my three podcasts.

So yes, I got lots of “practice” in 2019 and feel good about having “a writing practice.”


To complement practicing my speaking and writing as mentioned above, I wanted to really dial in on my “voice.” I think of voice as trying to be clearer in how I articulate what it is that I think, do, and believe and be more memorable in how I say and write things.

I suppose I should let you, my readers, tell my how well I did on this one! Feel free to hit reply and let me know.

Short of that, I think I made progress here but I definitely have room to grow. If I have to score myself, I’d say “B+.” In 2020, I want to go deeper and bolder with my voice—so keep reading my weekly letter and you can track my progress.


I didn’t do so well on this one. The idea was I wanted to get more precise in figuring out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to marketing. I thought I’d run tests on different variables and see what works. Then I’d keep iterating to further refine what works and do more of that.

Well, not quite. What I realized was I really needed a larger audience for this type of A/B testing to be significant. Early on, I didn’t see a large enough incremental benefit to justify the time investment it took to track and test everything.

One simple test I did that was effective was resending emails to people who didn’t open them the first time. I did this for a couple of email launch campaigns for ROL Advisor and we ended up getting incremental opens on the second sending of the email and it led to new sales.

Overall, I’d say #fail on “test.”

3 Words for 2020

OK, now let’s take a look at my 3 words for 2020. For this post, I’m going to devote most of my focus to one of those 3 words—Pace.

I have very ambitious plans for 2020 and after much thought, my 3 words ended up all starting with “P” (just coincidence) and all revolve around what I need to focus on to achieve my plans. Here they are…


As a former distance runner, the right “pace” was a key to not fading before the finish line. Likewise, to achieve my ambitious plans in 2020 I have to establish the right pace throughout the year.

This year, I’ll be running my businesses on “90-day sprints.” Yes, I have my yearly goals in place, but my focus will be on what I need to do in 90-day increments (calendar quarters). I’ve already laid out exactly what I need to do/accomplish in Q1 2020 to be on track for the full year goals. As I get near the end of Q1, I’ll establish my Q2 activities based on what happened in Q1.

Pace also includes the fact that I need to do a better job with the “pause that refreshes.” Resting is fresh in my mind because I’m just getting back to exercising after nine days off due to an over-aggressive workout that fried my lower back. I am focused on ensuring I have enough rest days in my schedule so I don’t fall prey to more unforced injuries.

And speaking of resting, I’m learning to view rest in a new light.

Composer Claude Debussy said, “Music is the space between the notes.” As I think about that quote, it reminds me of the February 7, 1981 Bruce Springsteen concert I attended in Champaign, IL. Springsteen and Clarence Clemons were performing the song “Fire” when, in the middle of it, they stopped singing and pressed their backs to each other and froze. As the lone spotlight shone on them for what seemed like several minutes, the crowd went nuts. Then, at the crescendo of the audience frenzy, they started singing the rest of the song.

Yep, I learned the power of “the space between the notes” at that concert. Of the more than four-hour-long show that cold February night nearly 40 years ago, that’s the one thing that I can still remember and visualize as if it happened last night.

Likewise, I’m starting to view rest not as a discrete “thing” that is bookended by “working out” on either side but rather as the connective tissue. It’s not just a “rest stop” in between workouts, it’s what makes the workouts possible. It’s the yin to the yang. It’s the H2 to the O.

Now, when I take a “rest” day, I’m (slowly) getting away from thinking, “There goes my streak of consecutive workout days.” Instead, I’m beginning to see it as “different terrain” on the same path that leads to my ultimate destination.

Yes, there will be periods during the year when I need to “pick up the pace” and other times when I need to slow down, reflect, and regroup. “Pace” is feeling like a really good word for me in 2020.


I’m a pretty disciplined guy but I noticed in 2019 that, in some areas, my discipline slipped a bit. I still had a great year in 2019—my best year since starting my own business in 2012—but it probably took me more time to get my results than it should have. Looking back, I realize I was too easily distracted, too quick to take my focus off what I should be doing and, instead, drifting toward stuff that was interesting but not immediately important.

Process is my reminder to “follow the process.” I have a very effective methodology that guides how I run my businesses and I need to make sure I consistently follow that methodology. I need to make sure I’m nearly 100% consistent in doing my Daily Outcomes sheet. I need to be aware when I find my attention drifting and bring it back to the important activity I should be focusing on in that moment.

I have the process to accomplish everything that’s on my plate. I just need to follow it.


My Daily Outcomes sheet is my list of 6 – 8 things I want to get done each day in order of priority. I’ve been doing it consistently for more than 18 years thanks to my old business partner Ron Carson, who made it a mandatory thing for everybody who worked with him.

For 2020, I want to be even more thoughtful in prioritizing all the things that are in front of me. I want to make sure I’m prioritizing the things that will lead toward my ambitious plans and not spending time on the “nice to do” but not a needle-mover things.

If fact, I got an early start on prioritizing here very recently as I said no to two opportunities that in the past I might have said yes to. The problem was, they would have been nice for my ego but ultimately weren’t connected enough to my larger objectives for 2020 and beyond.

So there they are: Pace, Process, and Prioritize.

Get Started

Now it’s your turn. Take a first pass at your 3 words and then set it aside. Revisit the next day and see if they still feel good. You can use this list of 500 words for some ideas. My final 3 words for 2020 were all different from my first pass at 3 words, so take the necessary time to ensure you come up with 3 word that really feel good to you.

Final Thought

There’s no reason to keep this idea a secret. Share it with your family, friends, and even your clients. Remember, the right (or wrong) word or short phrase can permanently change your life.

Post your 3 words in the comments below and tweet it with the hashtag #my3words.


– Values Clarification Toolkit Click here to download this FREE tool and start living your values.