Nothing satiates my appetite for self-reflection and the documentation of life's finer things quite like the end of year review. So without further ado, here's what got my juices flowing in 2017.
Due to being in an intense study period for the the past eighteen months for a leadership course (with one year left before graduation), I read a lot more study material than novels/biographies. I did however, manage to sneak in some good reads. In no particular order I really enjoyed the following:
Running Man by Charlie Engle. Charlie is a good friend and one of the main reasons I am sober. His tales of debauchery and subsequent sobriety and otherworldly endurance feats blow me away. Going into this book I thought I knew him pretty well. I was wrong. With depth and extraordinary candour, Charlie took me into his addiction out the other side. This book will make you laugh and then cry and then marvel at how he's even alive let alone infectiously positive.
Hitler: Ascent by Volker Ullrich. This mammoth but clearheaded exploration of the rise of Adolf Hitler is an outstanding study from a true historian. My interest in the subject matter stemmed from the past four years and having spent more and more time in Germany. I wanted to truly understand how this monster ever got into power. The book is a well-woven mesh of anecdotes and facts and charts the rise of an oddball turned messiah. Riveting.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Yeah, yeah I know I'm (very) late to the party but I loved this little book. This is a must for any creative person. Whether you're an artist, musician, writer, or YouTuber, this book is a blueprint for overcoming excuses and getting down to the hard graft of it. I'll be picking this book up again very soon!
Icarus is Bryan Fogel's eye opening exposé of the state sponsored doping program in Russian athletics. A keen amateur cyclist, Fogel unwittingly finds himself chronicling a story that wouldn't be out of place in a John le Carré novel. This documentary is more than just about sports. It is a staggering glimpse into the current geopolitical landscape and the lengths that a country will go to in order to win.
My favourite documentary of the year was Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond. I've always thought there was method behind the madness with Jim Carrey. This documentary reversed that. This is a case of madness behind the method. There were times during this when I was genuinely worried for the psyche of Carrey given how deep in character he was. The result is an oddly parallel universe kind of experience where you're not sure if you're watching Jim Carrey or Andy Kaufman. Either way, it peeks behind the veil of a unique brand of comedic genius that very few people posses.
Or in this case, album! Three words. Emperor of Sands. Mastodon went to work in the studio like the master craftsmen they are and left everyone in their dust with their collective jaws on the floor. I cannot say enough about this album. Inspired by various family members' battle with cancer, the album has a feel of urgency and passion that pulsates through every track. At times pop, at times full on growl, Emperor of Sands will go down as a landmark album that many will try and imitate but few will ever equal.
Rich Roll is my go-to podcast guy and the year was book-ended with two of his best. I started the year on a run in the woods listening to Roll talk with one of my long-time heroes, David Goggins. Goggins is a larger than life endurance monster and ex marine/ranger/seal. Tougher than tough. If you are still planning on lazily lounging on the sofa after this dose of inspiration, there's no hope for you. The second one (released a few weeks ago) was a deep dive conversation with Tim Ferris. I thought I knew Ferris from his books and podcast but this revealed a side to him that truly surprised. It's a raw and vulnerable chat that touches on suicide and depression.
On a personal note, 2017 was a big year of growth for me. As cliché as it may sound, turning 40 gave pause for a lot of reflection and trying to figure out just what my role is on this planet. I was fortunate to travel to a few countries and speak to a number of people from all walks of life. I celebrated seven years of sobriety, saw my son become a teenager, got to hang with family and friends more than I expected, got back into regular running after a less than impressive start to the year, became and ambassador for Altra, and some other stuff I won't bore you with.
What I take away from 2017 is this: talk is cheap. On more than one occasion I've been in situations where people have promised something or committed to something and my hopes have been raised only to be dashed further down the line. On the other hand, there have been situations where I've found who is really in my corner. These are the people who do as opposed to talk. You guys know who you are and I wouldn't be where I am without you. I'm also reflecting on the importance of the words I speak as I am sure I too have promised things to people and have not followed through. Going into 2018 I want to be a person of less talk and more action. To be a dependable friend and brother whilst still maintaining healthy boundaries for the sake of my sanity. I am only human and I know from past experiences that spreading myself too thin will only lead to both physical and mental exhaustion.
2017 was a truly great year and I'm very thankful for the memories it gave me.