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Book 317 - A Year of Magical Learning

Reflection Title: New Year’s Resolutions!

Book – Arbitrary Stupid Goal by Tamara Shopsin

Book Description:

In Arbitrary Stupid Goal, Tamara Shopsin takes the reader on a pointillist time-travel trip to the Greenwich Village of her bohemian 1970s childhood, a funky, tight-knit small town in the big city, long before Sex and the City tours and luxury condos. The center of Tamara’s universe is Shopsin’s, her family’s legendary greasy spoon, aka “The Store,” run by her inimitable dad, Kenny―a loquacious, contrary, huge-hearted man who, aside from dishing up New York’s best egg salad on rye, is Village sheriff, philosopher, and fixer all at once. All comers find a place at Shopsin’s table and feast on Kenny’s tall tales and trenchant advice along with the incomparable chili con carne. Filled with clever illustrations and witty, nostalgic photographs and graphics, and told in a sly, elliptical narrative that is both hilarious and endearing, Arbitrary Stupid Goal is an offbeat memory-book mosaic about the secrets of living an unconventional life, which is becoming a forgotten art.


I’m writing this reflection on January 2cd, 2023 upon just landing back in Indianapolis after visiting New York City for New Year’s Eve for the first time in my life with a close group of friends celebrating a birthday + the New Year.

I also just so happened to be staying in the Meatpacking District the past few days while we were visiting the city, which is very close proximity to the epicenter of where this entire book takes place in Greenwich Village. In true “the universe’s” cosmic sense of humor, Emilia and I found ourselves on our normal daily run passing through Greenwich Village while listening to an Arbitrary Stupid Goal as an audio book. I thought to myself, how cool is this? I mean, come on universe, let’s try not to be SOOO obvious next time!

This was not planned, I promise. I literally finished my previous book on the flight out to NYC a few days ago and was scrambling to find my next read quickly right after I landed. I had just finished 2 really long books in a row and wanted something fun and fast to listen to while in NYC for the few days. I googled a list of top Nonfiction Audio Books under 10 hours, and this was one of them. I purchased this book based on the title alone and seeing that it had some great reviews. I’m not even sure I read the description. Well, color me surprised when I realized that Arbitrary Stupid Goal is a love story about all things NYC, Greenwich Village, and the author’s beloved family’s restaurant called Shopsin’s. This book was already one of the most unique reads of this entire journey, but the experience of when and where I consumed it makes this probably one of the most unique learning experiences I’ve had on this journey to date.

The title of this book that intrigued me so much, Arbitrary Stupid Goal, I learned is a saying of the author’s father, Kenny Shopsin. Kenny is the eccentric founder of the family restaurant / general store that became very well known in the area because of its unique rules, food, and dining experience. According to Kenny, an Arbitrary Stupid Goal (ASG) is a goal that isn’t too important but helps you to live in the moment and gives you a driving force in life.

This idea got me thinking about my relationships with goals and how it has evolved dramatically over this YOML journey.

Before YOML, I would say that I would define my life as pretty goal driven. For example, the previous few years before Emilia entered my life, I had taken a full day in between Christmas and New Year’s each year to go through a goal setting exercise to make sure my life was aligning to how I saw myself in the next 5, 10, and 20 years down the road and develop and action plan to get there. As a part of the exercise, I would envision my future, my best day, and where I saw myself in 20 years. I would then evaluate where I am today on 7 different dimensions of my life and how it is progressing toward that life (Health, Emotional Intelligence, Family, Friends, Profession, Finances, and Spirituality). I would rate myself of where I stood between 1-10 of each dimension and then rate where I want to be. If those numbers didn’t align, I would right down a plan to pursue over the next year to correct that imbalance.

Nerd Alert!!!

This was Chris Sears that took life way to seriously! I think the funny thing is that I didn’t do anything that I wrote down after I completed these exercises. We aren’t meant to think 20 years out in the future, who the hell knows where they will be at that point in time.

As I was out having drinks with friends gearing up for New Year’s Eve in Times Square, one of them asked me if I had any New Year’s Resolutions this year. Here was my answer, and the same one I will give the rest of my days– I only ever have one goal these days and that is to perform as many actions as I can each day that reflect my values that I hold so dear.

That answer is my ASG. It is stupid and not stupid at the same time. It keeps me living the life I want to live in the present, aligned to where I want to be in the future, and most importantly, connected to my daughter at all times. If I can do that, I know I’ll have a happy and fulfilled existence.

I think Kenny Shopsin may be onto something with this ASG philosophy.

Question: What is your ASG (Arbitrary Stupid Goal)?



What is The Year of Magical Learning? An Introduction

YOML Podcast Discussion - Coming Soon

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