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This being the first week of 2011, many friends and colleagues have been busy looking backward and forward – assessing their performance for 2010 and determining their focus areas for 2011.  One of the most interesting ways to look forward is to create broad themes for the oncoming year.  Online friend Margie Clayman (one of my favorite bloggers) has taken Chris Brogan’s idea of building themes around 3 words and created a hashtag.  The idea is to blog about your three words and then share them on twitter, using the hashtag #cb3words so we can all check out each other’s developmental themes for the year.

After thinking about this for the last couple days, I’ve decided that my three words for 2011 are Mentor, Inspire, and Balance.  Here’s what each means to me:

Mentor

Mentoring is something I’ve often done and probably always will do. I’ve served as a formal mentor to about a dozen professionals over the years, and informally to dozens of others, and its a real passion of mine.  I’ve worked with three incredible mentors over the years and I know the power they can deliver.

Mentoring is unfortunately something that has great potential to be underutilized and/or poorly executed (but that’s a post for another day). There are so many ways formal mentor programs can fail (and many do). Today, I’m mentoring two students at my alma mater through their formal mentorship program designed to guide young professionals as they head into the workplace. Personally, I find this some of the most rewarding work I do.

Teach

Teach

To my way of thinking, a mentor has the potential to change lives in the same way a great teacher does (just in a more focused and compact way). As proof of this statement I offer up the twinkle in my friend Leyla Arsan’s eye as she told me over lunch about the incredible impact Allan Schoenberg had on her as she was breaking into social media. You had to be there, I suppose. Suffice to say – mentors matter.

I would include in my mentor theme my relationships with my three sons. Being a father has absolutely helped me to be a better mentor. But, I believe the reverse is also true. Looking at our father-son relationship as one that has a mentoring component forces me to look beyond ensuring my kids get what they need to develop basic life skills. It forces me look to more strategic skill development and encourages more in-depth conversations about teachable moments in school and around the neighborhood.

Inspire

Inspiration is such an overused term (especially in social media and blogging) that it is almost cliche. Even so, it’s an important theme for me in 2011 and I’ll share with you specifically what I mean by “inspire”.

I started this blog nearly two months ago, and it’s been a tremendous experience. Writing has helped me clarify my thinking, focus my thoughts on what matters to me, and interact with others in my circle. I’ve had some small successes. Hell, I’ve even been Brogan’d (when Chris Brogan retweeted my post about “What is #Usguys” my traffic spiked to 5X my biggest previous day).

My best hope when I began blogging was to generate some realy solid discussion within the comments section. While that still remains my goal with every post (an honest, forthright discussion about ideas), the feeling I get when that happens pales in comparison to the feeling I had in the pit of my stomach when an online friend read a post of mine and was inspired to write a post of her own. That initial rush of pride and satisfaction is something I want to repeat again and again throughout 2011.

Zen Cat

Zen Cat

Balance

In terms of my 2011 themes balance means a couple things:

Mind & body – I want to nourish and develop both my mind and my body in 2011.
Online & in person – I have a strong desire to pull my online friendships into the real world in 2011
Work & life – I want to continue to have a healthy balance in the work life area

You may have heard me mention that I want to push myself to do much more public speaking in 2011, and that remains true.  But speaking isn’t a driving theme for me. Its a tactic through which I can do more inspiring and more mentoring.

What about you? What are your three words for 2011? Let’s chat about them in the comment section below. Have a terrific year!

Photo courtesy of T.Hagihara – http://www.flickr.com/photos/hagihara_photo/ & nathanrussell – http://www.flickr.com/photos/nathanrussell/

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Sean McGinnis

Director, Digital Marketing at Sears Parts Direct
Sean McGinnis is Director, Digital Marketing at Sears Parts Direct. He is also a (digital strategist, blogger, consultant ) and public speaker. You can find Sean on