Why You Should Utilize Seasons for Your Own Success

Older players told Kobe Bryant he was going to have an identity crisis after he retired.

The game consumed him. How could he ever be the same?

But four years after he hung up his sneakers for good, he transitioned successfully to his next chapter: 

  • He started Mamba Academy. 
  • He wrote children’s books.
  • His first (and only) film Dear Basketball won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

He accomplished more in his four years away from basketball than most people do their entire life.

How did he do it?

He simply went on to his next “season” – to help the next generation learn basketball.

A season is a period of time when you focus on improving one aspect of yourself.

The Earth has already figured this out.

In the spring, the Earth grows its trees. In the summer, the Earth maintains the growth. In the fall, the Earth sheds the leaves from its trees. In the winter, the Earth wipes its trees completely dry.

Nothing would happen if the Earth tried to do this all at once.

So why don’t we treat our lives the same way?

I originally stumbled upon this idea from Steph Smith’s blog post – Another Year Under the Sun. Steph outlines many of her goals at the onset of each year. Someone commented on her article (via Hacker News): 

It may help to think of your life as “epochs” or “seasons”. Sometimes you’re in a work period, or in a startup epoch. Another time you’re in a travelling season. It’s easier to split your interests over time than to parallelise in the present. The season idea can be greatly reassuring – “oh, I’m not doing enough music now, but that’s because I’m in a work period. Focus on work, do that, that’s enough. Spare time – rest, recuperate, so I can do better work tomorrow.”

And I couldn’t help notice how true it is.

When I am “at my best,” I follow this premise. Focusing on improving one aspect of my life for a set period of time.

So let’s explore how the idea of seasons can help you achieve a specific goal.

Preseason: Selecting Your Season

You either fall into one of two categories: you have no focus or you have too many focuses. But in order for seasons to be effective, you need to have a goal or target (your season).

No Goals? Pick Something

If you don’t have a goal, you are drifting.

In Outwitting the Devil, Napoleon Hill talks about the most common form of “drifting”: indecision. Decide what you want to do instead of letting the tides of life carry you.

When you have no goals, you’re an object at rest.

Can you identify one area which you would like to improve? 

If you can figure out how you can make tiny improvements on this one goal (your season!), you’ll be in a much different position one week, one month, or one year from now.

Too Many Goals? Use Essentialism

Essentialism, popularized by Greg McKeown, is the concept of focusing on what is truly important. 

In the circle on the left, you end up going in twelve different directions but end up getting nowhere. In the circle on the right, you focus on one area and make huge progress.

A useful exercise might be to write down your twelve areas and then ask yourself, “If I could only get better at five of these, which one would I choose?”

Then do that process again with the five you’ve picked. “If I could only get better at one of these, which would I choose?”

Then, you can focus on your one big area ruthlessly.

This is your season.

The Critical Early Stages

When you want to make progress on your season, you need to devote more energy to that specific task than everything else. That way, you’ll get the most out of it.

Great theory, pal.

Does it hold up in the real world?

For a powerful example, let’s look at how you learned to speak.

When You Learned How To Speak

When you are young, your parents select your season. It’s “learning how to speak” season for all toddlers around the globe.

Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley studied 42 families in an attempt to figure out why some students were faster learners than others.

They found:

  • Children whose families were on welfare heard ~600 words per hour
  • Working-class children heard ~1,200 words per hour
  • Children from professional families heard ~2,100 words per hour 

By age 3, children in families on welfare hear 30 million fewer words than children in professional families.

They found the greater the number of words children heard before they were 3, the higher their IQ, and the better they did in school.

Learning a language is a skill – like anything else. In the early stages of any journey, you’re laying the groundwork.

To get good at something quickly, you have to cut the noise and surround yourself with those who will help you get better.

If you half-ass something in the beginning stages, you will pay for it later on.

Because when you’re new to an activity, you are working with a blank slate. You have no (or little) knowledge about a subject. And the improvements can rapidly increase your progress.

How Seasons Work In Real Life

My brother writes, produces, and performs a comedy show for his fraternity every semester. He takes it seriously. 

The show typically coincides with his finals, club activities, and ragers. 

It always turned out great, but never met his high expectations. He always thought to himself, “Man, if I could focus just on the comedy show, it would turn out amazing.”

This past year, he got his wish.

When COVID-19 forced him into quarantine, his schoolwork eased up. He suddenly had no other clubs or parties to attend to. 

As a result? 

He focused all of his attention on the show. And he produced his best performance. 

He was in the season of producing his comedy show.

How To Avoid Post-Season Depression

Here’s one guarantee: life will change.

When we complete one season, it’s easy to fall into a spiral. We lose the focus we had. The flow. The constant improvement. Even the stresses and worries are fun to look back on. Because we’re not drifting.

Seasons give us focus.

There is a sharp increase in deaths among men at 62 in the United States. This happens to be when Social Security is available. While correlation does not mean causation, it’s possible this is a reminder that “work” acts as a season and a reason for living.

So when we go from one season to the next, how do we make sure we don’t ruin ourselves in the process? 

You avoid post-season depression by doing what Kobe did:

Starting something new. And doing it fast.

Because it’s easy to fall into the trap of nostalgia. About reminiscing about past successes. To form your identity around a previous version of yourself. But you need to move. You need to get yourself in motion.

Where To Go From Here

You are likely in one of two camps:

  • No goals
  • Too many goals

Figure out which bucket you are in.

If you are in the first, pick something you wish you could get a little bit better, day after day. (It could be writing, drawing, coding, illustrating, exercising. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you commit to improving yourself in an area over a set amount of time.)

If you are in the second bucket, utilize essentialism to ruthlessly cut that which is not important to choose your season.

Focus on your season ruthlessly – especially in the early stages. This is the most critical time for your development.

Then, when you’re done with your season, choose something else to improve.

That’s it.

To track your season, utilize Streaks.

Thank you Joel Christiansen, Michael Shafer, and Stew Fortier for looking over the first draft of this article.

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