Once or twice a year I like to look back and take stock. Instead of the end of the year, when most people reflect, fall is typically my season of self-assessment. Maybe it’s the change of seasons or maybe it’s the impending holidays and spending time with my family, but I find this exercise important for my own continued self-development. And so, with this in mind here are a few things I either learned or was reminded of so far in 2014.
1. Time management and delegation – I’ve always struggled with these, even when I worked in a professional setting I couldn’t allow myself to delegate work to other people. Now with my digital career, I still find myself doing all of the work instead of finding assistance with the small things. The result is a crazy amount of work and stress, some of which frankly isn’t needed. I think that in the next few months I’ll have to hire an assistant of some sort not to complete the meaningful work I do, but to help out with the nitpicky details.
2. Lighten up – This has ALWAYS been a problem for me; I remember my mom telling me that I needed a thicker skin. So while understanding the nature of this personality fault is nothing new for me, learning how to deal with it effectively is. Perhaps at age 38 I’m finally growing up, but I’ve noticed recently an ability to let more things fall of my back and to hold my tongue in instances I wouldn’t have just a few years ago. This may not be a big deal for most people, but for me it’s practically a psychological breakthrough.
3. There’s always more to be done – I often tell people that since my job change while I’ve never worked harder that I’ve also never been happier, which is true. If I’m awake I’m usually working which has become a bit of an issue. I need to realize that just because there is more work to be done, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be done right away. Everyone is busy and there is always something everyone could be doing, but that doesn’t mean it’s critical they do so. Which brings me to my next point…
4. Relax – It is fairly ironic that someone who travels and highlights destinations around the world needs to relax, but it’s true. I’ve been feeling a little worn thin and I absolutely have to be more selfish and learn how to take some personal time. It’s something I don’t do enough of and I’m afraid that if I don’t I may end up resenting my new, dream job, which is something I want to avoid at all costs. I think we can all probably relate to this though, most of us don’t relax enough and quite honestly, it’s the best thing we could probably do for our health, both physical and mental.
5. Can’t be everything to everyone – This relates to a few of my other points, but I’ve definitely learned the dangers of overextending oneself. I’m essentially a freelancer, a freelance writer, marketer and consultant. A freelancer’s mentality is very much geared towards taking money when it’s presented, in case you don’t have another opportunity for a while. For me that meant saying yes to far too many opportunities and around May I had to stand back, reassess and say no to several folks. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. If I continued to try to do too much, all of my work would have suffered leaving everyone dissatisfied.
6. Attitude is everything – I am definitely NOT a new age, hippy dippy type of person but this year I began to appreciate the fact that one’s attitude and outlook on life is an essential component to success. Look around at your friends. Do the people who complain and whine always seem to have bad things happen to them? What about those happy more optimistic people, everything seems to go their way, doesn’t it? This isn’t a coincidence and indeed one’s attitude becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to success. If you never expect anything good to happen, it never will.
7. Life is fleeting – I guess it’s just part of getting older, but losing close friends and family members never gets any easier. But what it has done is teach me just how very fragile life is. Not to be morbid, but none of us knows how long we have on this earth and as the famous quote goes, life isn’t a dress rehearsal. We owe it to ourselves to make the most out of each and every day and most importantly, we owe it to ourselves to lead a life that makes us and by extension those we care about happy.
8. Travel = confidence – Not all of my trips are what I would call hard or challenging. I’m pretty comfortable with a lot of different types of travel, and getting around Europe (for example) is something I enjoy rather than dread. That being said, I had the opportunity recently of trying out new styles of travel in different places and the results reminded me just how important travel is to our own self-esteem. I was nervous at first when it came to navigating the new terrain, but after having done it successfully once I found myself doing it again and again. More than that, I was really proud of myself. I’d pushed my travel comfort bubble again and am a better person for it.
9. Trust people more – I have trust issues, the reasons for which are many but regardless, they are there. The universe has been trying to tell me lately that I need to get over them though and start putting more trust in people. It’s not easy, no doubt there, but I feel is essential not only in my inter-personal relationships, but business ones as well. I need to assume the best in people and not the worst, something that’s frankly really hard for me to do.
10. Power of outrageous ideas – We all see insanely successful people like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates and think they must be inherently different from us in ways we can’t change. Part of that may be true, but more than anything what helped propel people like them to extreme success is having the courage to be daring. No one ever succeeded by sitting on the sidelines and hoping that something good will one day happen to them. No, instead you have to get out there and make it happen, you have to dare to be outrageous and must not fear failure. That’s the only way in my opinion to be successful and happy, no matter what you’re trying to do.
11. Dogs are more than pets – Say what you will, but my dogs are important members of my family. Turns out, new research backs me up on this too. Some remarkable studies show that dogs interact with humans in ways that no other animal does, they perceive our intentions and read body clues that not even our cousins the apes and monkeys can do. No surprise really, dogs and humans have co-existed for thousands of years, each helping the other evolve into the creatures we are today. Man would not have been able to give up the hunter/gatherer lifestyle had it not been for dogs, and that’s just one of many examples of how we’ve depended on them throughout history. Today, humans and dogs share deep emotional bonds and I know I’ve come to rely upon mine when facing a hard day or a complex problem.
12. Be careful going into business with friends – I love working and I love my friends so I have frequently gone into business dealings with them. Sometimes it has worked out and other times, well, it hasn’t. The problem in working with friends though is that when it fails, it severely damages friendships as well. I’ve learned to be very careful when deciding with whom to go into business and to be very honest about expectations and results. The last thing I want to do is to damage a great friendship over a silly business dealing.
13. Love my country – I’m not a typical U.S. flag t-shirt wearing, obsessively patriotic American, but frequent travel has taught me not only how great my home country is but also how much I really do love it. Yes, we have our problems like everyone else and people around the world love to pick on us, but on the whole I think we have a lot to offer. Chatting with people around the world, many of them don’t like their countries. That astounds me and as an American is a concept that is extremely difficult to understand. I think that here in the U.S. the question is never whether or not we like our country; it’s the degree to which we love it that is in question. No, in spite of our foibles I will never stop loving my country for the magnificent nation that t is.
14. The world is huge – Every time I think I’ve been to a lot of places, I look at a map and am once again astounded at the size of the planet. There is so much to do and see on this beautiful planet that it is sometimes daunting to think about. Just consider all of the people and their unique and interesting stories. It would take many lifetimes to see it all, but that won’t stop me from trying.
15. Good to confide in others – I tend to be a private person, which is ironic since I’ve decided to make many aspects of my life public. But it’s true and it’s rare for me to talk with friends about problems or issues. But this year I’ve learned that the power of a great friendship is something not to be ignored and sometimes it’s just as important to hear your friends’ problems and to just be there for them. There’s great curative power in sharing with others, just make sure you don’t overshare and always choose the right friends.
16. Facing the past is sometimes good – This year marked my 20th high school reunion, an event I almost didn’t attend. I just didn’t see the point and honestly I didn’t want to dredge up a lot of high school angst. But I did go and the results surprised me in every way. I had a great time reconnecting with my old hometown and old friends. The trip did a lot of good for me, helped put some old demons to rest and left me with a much cheerier outlook on life. Sometimes it’s important to not ignore the past, but to face it head on as I thankfully learned this year.
What are some lessons you’ve learned this year?