Starting Anew in 2013: Learning From the Mayans

  |  December 21, 2012   |  Comments

Let's take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to honor the cycling of the Mayan calendar (as well as our own new year) and apply some Mayan lessons to our own work.

Today, the Mayan calendar "ends." I put the word "ends" in quotes because it only ends in the same way our calendar "ends" on December 31. That is, our calendar starts over on January 1, and the Mayan calendar starts over tomorrow (on December 22). It just so happens the Mayan calendar is on a much longer cycle than our 365-day calendar. Actually, the Mayans had a lot of different calendars, each marking something different. Only one of the Mayan calendars is actually marking today as anything special.

Back in the modern world, our year is about to end. That means it's time to start getting project proposals ready for budget approval meetings. What will be on your list for next year? A site facelift? A mobile app? Fixing problem projects from this year?

Let's take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to honor the cycling of the Mayan calendar (as well as our own new year) and apply some Mayan lessons to our own work.


The Mayans believed in reincarnation. In the spirit of reincarnation, take a look at projects you launched a few years ago. They were new and shiny when you launched them, but now they are probably looking old in comparison with newer projects. It's time to rethink their purpose and help them reincarnate into something that stays modern and competitive. Maybe that means it's time to look at the iPhone app you built three years ago and redo it. Maybe it's time to look at a section of your site that you built on an older technology. Whatever it is, don't let it whither on the vine just because so many newer and more shiny projects are interesting. Revitalize it. It was a good idea back then and (in some form) is still a good idea now.


The Mayans morphed their beliefs over time. While they were incredibly scientific, they were also deeply spiritual and eventually believed in sacrifice. In our modern times, our form of sacrifice is (thankfully) quite different. Sometimes in order to meet a deadline or get a project pushed through the IT department, you need to sacrifice certain functionality. It might even be your favorite piece of functionality, but it's too difficult to program and therefore will delay your project. Set your ego aside and realize that it's better for the project to launch in two phases (with your favorite functionality waiting for phase two) than delay the project in total another six months. Get it launched, and sacrifice a little to make sure it happens.


Obviously, the Mayans had an amazing wealth of scientific knowledge. Their understanding of astrology is beyond that of almost any other historic culture. Take a page (or a tablet, I suppose) from the Mayans and take this time to plan out your calendar for next year. What are your major milestones? What accomplishments will make you personally happy at your job, which will make your team happy, and which are best for the company? As you go into budgeting and scheduling meetings, try to start the year off on your best foot by having all of your projects prioritized.

Have No Fear

This column is being published on the last day of the Mayan calendar (at least the calendar of theirs that everyone is obsessed with right now, not the others). Tomorrow will be the start of a new Mayan calendar cycle, and January 1 will be the start of our own calendar's cycle.

And if you actually have any fear that the Mayan calendar's end predicts the end of everything, rest assured knowing something important. Last month I went on a tour of Mayan ruins throughout Mexico (I figured now was the time, right?). Guess what? In the gift shops of these ruins, they were all selling 2013 Mayan calendars.

Clearly they know something we don't.

Happy new year to Mayans and non-Mayans alike.

Until next time…


Mayan Pyramid image on home page via Shutterstock.



Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

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