I know the year isn’t quite over yet, but it’s closing in fast and so as usual I find myself thinking back and taking stock of the last 12 months of my life. The last year has been one of the most interesting and dynamic of my life, as I developed a new career and found new ways of tackling life. There was good, bad and a lot of ugly, but all in all I will look back on this year as one that was transformational and positive. There are a few lessons though that I walk away with that I thought I’d share with you today.
1. Sometimes people can change – This year was a tumultuous one when it came to interpersonal relationships but at the end of the day, I have been very pleased to see that sometimes people are indeed able to recognize their own shortcomings and make changes in their lives. Some people I had mentally shut out of my life, certain that this all too important change in their personalities and lives was too difficult for them to make. It saddened me, a lot, but I had lost hope. This year taught me to never lose hope in other people, that no matter how bad things might seem we are all capable of change if we want it bad enough. It’s not always easy, but that self-determination is always there.
2. Many times people don’t change – Sadly however, while I saw some people undergo moments of exceptional personal growth, I witnessed still others further decline. Nothing outrageous or life endangering, just people who refused to improve themselves in ways that would have in turn helped everyone around them. This, in tandem with point number one, taught me to always keep a certain level of cautious optimism. I should never discount someone completely, but I shouldn’t always bank on the fact that the rude will suddenly become polite, or the disrespectful transform into someone who cares about others.
3. I’m way too trusting – Most of my friends may not believe this, since I come across as slightly jaded and sarcastic, but in truth I am far too trusting, bordering on a gullible Pollyannaish attitude towards life. While this naivety may be charming younger in life, at age 37 it makes me come across as guileless or unsophisticated at times. I’m not sure I can totally change this, it is so against my nature it may be too late. I just believe that people will always do the right, moral thing and won’t take advantage of my own honesty and morality. This is not the case. So in 2014 I hope to adopt a more ‘trust but verify’ philosophy and to take certain precautions to protect myself from other people’s bad acts.
4. I love travel, but in spurts – Travel is my passion and now is my career and I couldn’t be happier about that. I love the industry, the people involved with it and I especially love sharing travel tips and stories with the rest of the world. Exploring a new destination is a high for me and there’s nothing quite like it. But I do have a home life too and this year proved to me that while I love to travel, I can’t do it for long periods of time. I don’t enjoy being away from home for more than two weeks at a time and so next year I’m going to try to better plan my trips so that they’re more focused on the stories I want to share and I also promise to take into consideration my partner so that I’m not always on the road. It’s hard on one’s partner when they’re always the one stuck at home. That doesn’t mean I’m going to travel less, far from it, I’m just going to better plan my adventures and to combine them whenever possible.
5. I’ve grown up – I was on a flight recently, seated next to a guy in his early 20s or so and as we chatted I began to realize that at some point I actually matured. I’m not sure when this transformation occurred, but like a flash my life’s experience, my knowledge and even the way I carry myself all seemed suddenly mature to me. I’m still processing this, but part of me is of course happy I’m all grown up, but I’m also a little sorry that I’ve lost some of that innocence. There’s a lot to be said for seeing the world with eyes wide open, but of course the march of time waits for no man. I’m still going to order hotel room service from the kid’s menu though; that I refuse to give up.
6. I like my beard – Last year, about this time, I started my beard experiment. I never had one before and I felt like I needed a change in my appearance. It was a lark and I never expected to keep it for very long, but a year later I still sport it proudly. Now it’s hard to imagine not having it, it’s become a part of my look that I like and has even given me some extra confidence. So, for the time being at least, my beard is here to stay I’m happy to say.
7. Don’t be afraid – One of my favorite movies is “Defending Your Life,” in which the recently deceased have to defend the actions of their lives. It’s a comedy, but the takeaway is that the only thing that matters in our lives, the one thing on which everything is based is how afraid we are during life. Think about it and you’ll soon realize it’s true. People are afraid to do all sorts of things: ask for a raise, apply for a job, ask someone out, be honest with themselves, confront the unknown and so on. But if we systematically confront these fears, our lives almost automatically becoming much more enjoyable.
8. The business world is harsh – For 12 years, my entire professional career, I worked for non-profit trade associations. These organizations work to serve their members and that is their primary focus, not making money. Within those organizations I worked in departments that were actually charged with spending as much money as possible. This life experience in no way prepared me for the sometimes harsh environment of the business world. As it turns out, there’s a reason why I was naturally drawn to non-profits. I really enjoy helping people first and making money second. I’ve adapted though, mostly, but the idea of making harsh decisions based entirely on money is still very alien to me.
9. Most people are nice – This is a great travel and life lesson and is constantly reaffirmed whenever I leave the house. No matter what we think about other countries and cultures, people around the world are very similar to us. They have families, jobs, hopes and dreams. They’re also human and as such are naturally inclined to help out their fellow man whenever they can. Not everyone is like this of course, but most are and it’s learning about these wonderful people more than anything else I think that keeps me incredibly interested in seeing more of the world.
10. Tomorrow is always another day – As I’ve alluded to, this has been a tough year for me personally and at times I wasn’t even sure how I could manage to wake up the next day. But that’s just it, every 24 hours the world is renewed and everything becomes possible once again. No matter how badly things are going there is always the possibility, the very likely possibility, that things will get better. It’s important during these times of personal strife to take a long-term view of things. Focus not on what’s going on today, but what may happen in a week, a month or even a year. More than just hope for good things to happen tomorrow, make them happen. I believe that we are all the architects of our own personal destinies, so don’t waste this day and instead get out there and make sure tomorrow is indeed that much brighter.
What lessons has 2013 taught you?