Three Questions To Ask Yourself As We Start The New Year


Recently, Poets & Quants asked me about my New Year’s resolutions for 2018. They shared my response in a post they published earlier this week. I have always believed in embracing the turn of each calendar year as a chance to take stock and set a course for the next year that ensures I’m heading in the right direction. And the start of 2018 has been no different.

Each year, I ask myself three seemingly simple questions. I share those questions and a bit of detail below, and I encourage you to consider asking yourself these as well as you prepare to take on 2018.


As I prepare to enter a new year I remind myself how important it is to strive for continuous improvement, to always be reaching for that higher level of excellence.

This question always reminds me of Michelangelo’s quote: “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

When reflecting on a year gone by, we can often point out at least one area where, in retrospect, we could have stretched ourselves a little further. We must learn from this past but not enslave ourselves to what’s been done before. We must embrace risk in the pursuit of a higher standard of excellence.


I have a philosophy I call the “fun factor” that each new year I reset and remind myself of.

The basic principle: If it’s fun, it’s worth doing. If it’s not fun, don’t do it. Life is too short and, when we’re having fun, the joy we feel is contagious with others and lifts up everyone. It’s great to enter a new year with this refreshed perspective.


Whether it’s in my personal life or as dean of Michigan Ross, it’s the people I have the privilege of being around that make the difference. At Michigan Ross, I often remind our community that the people make the place, and our place is special because our people are special. Our students, staff, faculty, alumni, and corporate partners all contribute to a special place that has the power to transform lives, launch rewarding careers, and make a positive and meaningful difference in society.

To answer this question, each new year, I make a list of the 10 most important people in my life. First I ask how much time and energy am I investing in each of these relationships. Then I ask myself, “whose ‘list of 10’ am I on, and how am I investing in those relationships?” Every year, it’s a powerful moment that helps me recenter and focus on what — and who — is important.

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Scott DeRue
  • Edward J. Frey Dean of Business
  • Stephen M. Ross Professor of Business
Scott DeRue is the Edward J. Frey Dean of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. He is also the Stephen M. Ross...