I named my 2023 “Ukiyo”

Joe Martin
5 min readJan 25, 2023


Names are a powerful thing.

As humans, we’ve been naming things for a long time. We started naming ourselves, then others, and eventually our locations. We continued naming stories, swords, automobiles, apartment buildings, animals and damn near everything else that exists around us.

For the past seven years, I’ve given a specific period of time in my life a name — the year to come.

Unlike giving your year a theme, or merely setting a goal, the “name” is intended to be the chapter of the book we are all writing in life. Only, instead of letting life happen and writing about what happened — in retrospect, naming a year lets us write about what’s going to happen.

Naming my years in advance I’ve found:

  • Greater clarity around my actions.
  • More ability to be present in all moments — even the painful ones.
  • A stronger sense of purpose — especially in relationships
  • A tangible sense of meaning — especially in work
  • And a refinement of the single greatest asset to my adult life — intentionality.

I spoke with Executive Coach, Diana Patel, MBA about how a chosen name can keep you on path throughout the year.

In the video, Diana talks about the name being an influence when making important decisions. To weigh her decisions back against that name when they arise.

And that decision making. The millions of tiny decisions we intentionally, programmatically, or habitually make every day that lead us to where we are.

One of the most important things I’ve learned about living a life that matters, is how much intention it takes to do it. Which is why I started naming my years.

2023: The Year Named “Ukiyo”

Inspired by Hokusai’s The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, I started to research more about why this piece of art has managed to persist nearly 200 years after it was created.

“The Great Wave Off Kanagawa” by Hokusai, 1831

What I learned, was about a 200 year period in Japan when they shut their borders to the outside world. Between the 1600s — 1800s Japan had very little contact with the outside world.

With this, war dissipated and the merchant class started to thrive. The merchant class, these hard workers, had finally come into a time of enjoying the fruits of their labor.

This 200 year period was the birth of Kabuki theater, the art of the haiku was created, and woodblock paintings like “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa” became available for common people to own. This rather hedonistic and pleasure seeking time period originally expressed the Buddhist idea of the transitory nature of life.

During the Edo period, the homonym meaning “transitory”, was substituted for the character meaning “to float.” The result was an expression, an attitude of joie de vivre. Literally the word Ukiyo translates to “The Floating World” and for me it’s about writing a chapter of my life around enjoyment.

The year is named, now what?

Part of my fascination with naming my year is watching how it then plays out.

There’s the idea that if you say, “I want to be happy” all the universe hears is “I want.” So it will do exactly that. You’ll be kept in a perpetual state of wanting because that’s what you asked for. This is why things like, “I am” or “I have” are so powerful.

Ukiyo means “The Floating World” and for the first time in 13 years I found myself on a cruise ship 6 days into the new year.

It’s just…c’mon! How can you not tilt your cap to the universe on that one. Well played.

We’ll see how it actually plays out, but I have some ideas of my own as well.

2022: Prove It meant “show what you can do.” You have a whole year. Go! Go, Joe. Go show them.

And dammit. Dammit, I did.

Worked hard to win some great clients, built this fantastic case study, recorded a bunch of music, and met somebody really special.

So this year.

2023: Ukiyo means #^@%!$+ enjoy it! Here are three ways I plan to do just that.

#1) Write

The first part is taking the time to slow down and write in a way that purposely captures the simplicity, beauty, and inspiration of living.

I was a songwriter when I was younger. Being able to play guitar and sing, the thing I loved doing the most was writing new music. And it’s in music that I learned the appreciation for every. small. word.

Every space.

Every pause.

Every beat. All part of the poetry of reading.

While I primarily use writing to create a company’s first sentence — I want to get back to writing creatively this year.

Continuing to draw inspiration from the name of the year, the way that seems most appropriate to me is writing haikus. So, throughout Ukiyo just as Hokusai created 36 views of Mount Fuji, I will create 36 haikus (1 per week over 6, 6-week cycles) as a way of both inspiring the days and weeks ahead, as well as recording the outcomes of so much intention.

#2) Travel

Another product of Ukiyo is the thrust into travel this year. Taking the idea of “The Floating World” as moving throughout this one. Traveling to new places, trying new foods, and experiencing more of what’s out there.

And so, as I travel, I’d like to see you!

Part of the goal of traveling is to meet as many of you, dear friends as possible. I already have trips planned to several cities around the globe this year — and will publish the places and dates to my mailing list next month.

But if you’re in a city I should come see, or live in a city I’ll be visiting, let me know! I’d love to grab a drink and hear all about the name for your year, what you’re working on, and where we can get the best spicy fried chicken sandwich.

#3) Art

Learning more about this time period has been fascinating. The rise of Kabuki theater and art like “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa” were at the front of an entire movement.

It was art and entertainment for common people, for the first time in Japan’s history.

What a transition! What a thing to be able to share. To think back to the times when music was a luxury only the wealthy could afford to indulge.

This year isn’t about creating, launching, or proving anything. It’s about taking in the art around me. To remember the basics of why we create and the power of creation.

Ukiyo starts now.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to share some of the names that my friends, peers, and inspirations have shared as their 2023’s name, and maybe help give you some ideas for how to name your own year.

No, it is not too late. This year is just getting started.

Give it a name. It’s what you do now. You name your years like the chapter of a book. Welcome to the club!



Joe Martin

Entrepreneur, author, and TEDx Speaker who believes real world interactions are more valuable than digital ones.