Looking back on 2012, I can say that it was one of the most enlightening, most challenging, and most humbling years. And I’d also say it was the best year of my life.

We started Sherpaa, proved out the concept and that it works, and raised $2M in seed money to really ramp it up and get started on changing healthcare and making it as awesome as we can.

But that’s professionally. Personally, 2012 was the best year of my life. One situation in particular challenged me to my core and forced me to rethink who I am as a man and who I want to be going forward. It’s been the hardest 6 months of my life, but seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is extremely exciting to me. 

When you become a doctor, you really do, in many ways, throw away your 20s. It’s extremely difficult to get into medical school, so undergrad is spent with your nose in books just trying to get into med school. If you accomplish that, med school is actually much easier academically, but still, you must devote 60 hours a week to learning the theory of medicine. Then, you finish med school and I spent 5 years in residency working 80 hour weeks learning the practice of medicine. When you’re finally out of this mess, you’re 30. 

And when I was 30, a relationship of 12 years ended. We’re great friends now, but of course that weighed heavily on me as a person.

When I launched my first practice in September of 2007, I was 30 years old. And I was free. And ever since then, I’ve been living a dream. Professionally, I couldn’t be happier. I’m so very fortunate that the world has embraced me and my ideas about how to make healthcare better. I have an absolutely amazing company and get to speak all over the world about making healthcare awesome. I’m the luckiest guy alive. My job is absolutely wonderful and I’m living in the best city in the world. I’ve actually been living my 20’s for the past 6 years because, due to my chosen career, I felt a bit robbed of my youth. I’ve had a ton of fun, met absolutely wonderful people, traveled the world, created beautiful things, and lived my dreams. But I’m almost 37. However, I could live my 20’s forever and have only a partially fulfilling and shallow life or I could choose to become a grown man and settle down with a person I love and establish a real sense of depth and meaning in my life. And that’s something I want for myself.

However, like us all, I had some flaws in my core self. I had a situation this year that pointed out those flaws to me in all their full glory and hit me hard enough to make me really examine who I am and what I want in life. You only get one. And I want my life to be the very best I can make it. 

Many people have gone through this process of self-discovery at various ages. Sometimes it hits us when we’re 20, 36, or 86. But each person I’m sure stumbles through it differently. Here’s what I discovered and what’s helped me:

  • Write a personal mission statement and keep it open in your browser and read it slowly every morning. Revise it as often as you see fit and try to minimize the number of items to establish an essence of who you are.
  • Get rid of things that aren’t essential to your life. Simplify.
  • Eliminate as many stressful things as possible. Do meaningful things that make you happy and relaxed, like massages and hikes in the woods. Give yourself a break.
  • Eliminate people and things that make growth difficult. 
  • Spend much less time looking at screens and more time reading books.
  • Spend a ton of time alone reading books that provide a little insight into life. I’ve found waking up a little early and reading something nice is a great way to start your day. Anyway, time at night would be good too. The point is, just read enlightening books and eliminate distractions when reading.
  • Write. I created my own private tumblr that I’m treating like a diary adding my own writing but also anything that I find insightful, like passages from the books I’m reading. I want all of this stuff to be in the same place. And I also want to be able to read through it and see progress and reminders.
  • Write down the qualities you find attractive in a person. Read them a few times a week.
  • Go out with friends that talk about real issues and ones that you trust for good, objective advice. 
  • Have a glass or two of wine but not much more.
  • Be consistently kind to everyone.

Here are the books I’ve read this year that have helped sculpt my philosophy on life:

I’ve found that I love the classic self-help books. If you haven’t read them, I encourage you to do so. If you have read them, re-read them. They just may change your life. But most importantly, 2012 taught me the importance of a team and artfully creating your world around you to optimize that team, whether that team is at work or at home. And difficult times are by far the most enlightening. I never run away from a challenge. Never have. Never will. And starting 2013, I’m a much happier, wiser man who has so much optimism inside it hurts. Life is grand, isn’t it? 

By the way, that photo is from one of the finest weekends I’ve ever had in my life spent in a beautifully restored barn in the Catskills just a few months ago. There were squirrels and homemade donuts galore in that barn. It was fantastic! I finally bought a car this year, so escaping from the city as often as I can has been a dream come true.