2018 was not the best year of my life and, after chatting with many other people, it seems to have been a widespread phenomenon. Don’t misunderstand me, I had many wonderful experiences and the good always outweighs the bad, but I had some rough patches that absolutely left me reeling. As with all down times, I was provided with opportunities to reflect and reassess and I want to share some of that here today. I’m not going to whine about the year anymore after this, instead I want to look forward to a brighter and better 2019.
One of the biggest shocks I had this year was losing one of my dear sweet dogs, Cody. He succumbed to cancer early in 2018, and it’s been very hard getting over the loss. With three senior dogs, naturally I’m realistic, but there’s nothing like living through the experience of losing one of my furry kids. I’ve learned a lot though, especially about the value of impermanency. A mandala is a beautiful and incredibly intricate work of art created by master Buddhist craftsmen. The creation of this swirling eddy of color, all made from sand, can take many weeks to complete. Once the painstaking and labor-intensive work has been finished and the glorious work of art is revealed, the monks then sweep the sand away. It may seem shocking to spend so much time creating something to simply destroy it, but that’s the entire point. Mandalas are meant to remind us about the impermanency of life, that everything is dynamic, that everything is in a constant state of flux and that no, not even the most beautiful creation in the world can last. It’s a quietly powerful image and one I haven’t been able to shake since losing Cody. It’s also a great reminder of a life lesson I learned a few years ago, one that has since defined my life and one that I have been dangerously close to forgetting, passion. Passion is incredibly important and without it we can’t keep moving forward.
Business is Business
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 and can make my business dealings at times difficult.
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.
Personal change is possible at any age
A zebra never changes his stripes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, blah, blah, blah. Modern man, it seems, has gone to great lengths to convince himself that we are who we are and that nothing can change that. While true in some respects, in others that’s complete nonsense and 2018 was a great education in that for me. Both my partner and I have gone through a lot of personal trials over the last several years, and instead of letting them permanently scar us or even destroy us, it’s made each of us better, stronger in ways that we didn’t even know possible. I’m nearly 43 and I’ve never been happier in my life, whether it’s with my health, my work or just life in general. I could not have said that even five years ago, but a series of personal changes I made led me to the place where I am today. Life isn’t perfect, but there are many things we can do ourselves to change that and make it a little bit more perfect.
Most people are good
In a world that is dangerous, where terrorism seems to be on around every corner (thanks cable news networks!) it’s easy to lapse back into old ways of thinking. It’s easy to say that everyone who is an OTHER, who is DIFFERENT, is inherently bad and wants nothing more than our own personal destruction. In fact, that’s not true. If travel has taught me any one thing, it’s that the vast majority of people – we’re talking 99.99% here – are good. Not only are they good, but they’re a lot like you and me. They want the same things out of life, jobs, happy families, some small perks and so on. The world is in fact NOT a dark and scary place, it’s a wonderful one and it’s imperative that we don’t let a very small minority and the fear mongers make us lose sight of this very important fact.
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.