To-dos for 2015: Facebook, Microsoft, Arianna Huffington, Vend and Pledge Me – a peek into their aspirations

The really smart folks on what they are reading in 2015 and why we need to start a list of to-dos for the new year.

The year always starts off with a bang with well-meaning resolutions to induce change to snuff out old habits. Big names such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates are no different – they too have resolutions and for them, a good read ranks pretty high on the list.

Virgin’s founder Richard Branson suggests everyone makes a list of to-dos in 2015. “I’m a list maker. Making lists helps me to not only organise my life, but get things done. Lists of people to call, lists of business ideas, lists of blog topics, lists of tweets to send, lists of upcoming plans – I jot them all down in my notebook or on my iPad.

“But I don’t make list just for the sake of making lists – they are calls to action. I work through them each and every day, ticking off the things I have completed, and turning them into the next idea or link in the chain.”

Picture from Virgin.Com

However, the blunt truth is that about 50% of those who make resolutions or set goals don’t ever reach the state of change they desire, according Psychology Today, citing research done by John Norcross and his colleague.

That has not stop these high-powered folks to set some goals to usher in the new year. Zuckerberg aims to read one book every other week with a view to learn more about other cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies. Top of his 2015 reading list is The End of Power by Moises Naim, a book about how giving individuals power can disrupt the world.

Arianna Huffington wants to read more for pleasure, rather than for work. “I read so much each day, but that reading is almost always a means to an end -- work that must be done, emails and texts that must be replied to, books and articles that might inform my next blog post, and so on.”

Bill Gates didn’t quite set out with a 2015 resolution but wrote about his 2014 reading list, mostly heavy stuff, including Thomas Picketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a book highlighting the problem of inequality. Other books in Gate’s 2014 list were: Business Adventures (a collection of business articles from the 1950s and 1960s introduced to him by investment guru Warren Buffett); and How Asia Works by Joe Studwell (how the tiger economies of Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and China sustain their growth).

Vend and Pledge on their 2015 aspirations

Locally, Kiwi entrepreneurs too yearn for change – for the better. Vaughan Rowsell, founder of point of sale software company Vend, likes far-out challenges – not resolutions, he doesn’t do those.

 “I don't do new year resolutions as such but I do my annual impossible challenge where I pick something (to do) that to me feels really really impossible to do. Like run 1,000 km or cycle the length of NZ or start a $100-million software company, then nail it. 

“However this year over the break I have also decided some non-impossible things I guess I have resolved to do, to enhance my life to more awesome (levels),” he says, adding this include giving more, loving more, and having more fun.

He hopes to give more time and help to people who need it, without necessarily needing anything in return. “I am a firm believer in paying it forward. All good deeds get repaid.”

In the love more space, this includes loving friends and family more.

He also encourages people to take time to find passion in everything – the work you do, the people around you.

“And lastly, have fun. You only get a relatively few laps around the sun, so make the most of each of them by having a year you look back on and think "Shit, that was fun".

Vend's Vaughan Rowsell doing his cycle challenge, riding through NZ  in 2009

Rowsell had for summer (found on his Instagram) Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's classic The Little Prince.

And if his Tweeter page is anything to go by, he started with a great dose of silencing his mind, attending the inaugural Cooks Beach backyard meditation class for 2015.

Anna Guenther, co-founder of crowdfunding platform PledgeMe already confessed that she had joked about not drinking in January but already failed on that count.

Her PledgeMe resolutions are to keep building the platform for crowdfunding their way with “more onesies, more fun, and more people focussed’”.

Work is fun, at Pledge Me

What changed in 2014 for her was she took up listening to podcasts in late 2014, two recommendations from her being: StartUp and Serial.  “(They are) Two of the best things I've ever listened to, definitely the gateway drugs to podcast listening,” she says.

The best book she read in 2014 was Give and Take, by Adam Grant. "It looks at the difference between givers, takers, and matchers, and proves that the good guy doesn't always finish last," Guenther says.

Despite the cynicism surrounding resolutions for change and the prospect of New Year resolutions failing by February, this doesn’t mean people should not stop thinking ‘big’ or setting goals, according to Forbes magazine.

The magazine’s contributor, Kristi Hedges who is a leadership coach, offers these tips on how to build realistic and achievable goals.

1.Set goals that matter to you, and that you can put energy around. Don’t make them just because it’s what you do in January. Be ready to commit.

2.Every resolution should have a plan to accomplish it. Don’t just vow to change your career, determine what steps you’ll need to take.

3.Rather than making all-or-nothing resolutions, build in milestones. For example, instead of attempting to hit the gym every day, commit to exercising 2-3 times a week and gradually increasing this.

4.Believe in your own ability to change. Consider that every day, people in the worst of circumstances — whose lives have been wrecked by factors like addiction or trauma –decide to change their lives and do. If they can; you can. Whatever has happened in the past has no impact on what you can do with your future.