The Word of the Year for 2019

Looking back on the previous twelve months, there is one word that ties together my lessons learned and aspirations. The word is daily. It’s the humblest of words, suggesting commonplace, regular, routine, of no special note. In the day-to-day it’s often neglected in favor of the strategic, the innovative or the inspiring.

On the professional side, I was fortunate to spend time visiting with several companies that are doing a great job of sustaining their lean journeys through robust daily management. This was inspiring. It’s an area where many organizations continue to face struggles. Part of my focus for 2020 will be to help make Gemba Academy resources more helpful in this area.

This past year I was engaged in daily work as part of the Gemba Academy content team. For the first time in memory, I had no authority to speak of and more or less the same work routine each day. This has required figuring out how to best add value to internal customers. This experience has given me insights on how to be a better teacher, advisor, leader. I would recommend spending a year deep in the trenches to any executive who has grown comfortable with calling the shots far away from the weeds. There’s a lot to learn in the daily.

On a personal level, it’s been five years since making a career change to stop constant business travel. That allowed me to set a daily routine for the first time in twenty years. Some hobbies such as martial arts or playing music are not very portable. After five years of taking lessons and practicing guitar every night, I can finally play pieces that once were intimidating or seemed impossible. They are a joy to practice. It’s never too late to learn the lesson about overcoming challenges through daily effort.

This year I learned that some daily rituals can have a surprising and almost immediate impact. An example of this is solving crossword puzzles with my wife. It’s not about the crosswords but about the time together thinking, talking, laughing. The weather isn’t always agreeable for a walk so it’s a good idea to have several of these types of rituals as backup.

Changes to my daily responsibilities, both at work and at home, made regular exercise more difficult to sustain this past year. Among other things, I was fully in charge of housework for a few weeks at a time due to family health issues. This did help me appreciate having the time when I did. It’s also important to have alternate exercise scripts for when conditions aren’t ideal.

On a day-to-day basis, we may not appreciate our daily routine, unless it’s interrupted. Building competency, good habits or wealth can take years of daily effort. On a day-to-day basis we feel the effort more than the reward. This year I will appreciate having the opportunity to engage in part of my daily routine, knowing this is a privilege.