Bandwagon post ahead, kinda.
Every year as we collectively rock into the Festive Season, I like to take stock of the year just gone by. By slowing down & feeling grateful for new lessons-learned, big wins, ouchy losses, & everything in between I’m feeling rather introspective & reflective.
Why? Well, most likely because I’m getting older. 36 years on this planet has sure taught me the importance of thankfulness & sharing with others. And, a single trip around the sun seems as good a time as any to reflect on the past, embrace the present, & look ahead to what the next 365 sleeps might bring.
In the spirit of turning over another page in the proverbial book of my life, I’ve come up with a little list that I hope will give you, dear reader, a bit of hope, a few lolz, & (most importantly) rev you up for a new year.
2018, I can’t wait to meet you.
Top Ten Things I Learned This Year.
- Sand, Pebbles, Boulders
After a particularly fraught day this year worrying about a friendship gone sour, a good friend gave me some good advice in the form of sand, pebbles, & boulders. “There are three kinds of people in life,” she told me “& each one acts as either sand, a pebble, or a boulder. The sand signifies the folks who ebb in & then quickly flow from our lives. As the tides go high & then low, those who are sand move quickly from our attention. Next you’ve got the pebbles. With the tide, they stay a bit longer than the sand. But, not forever. Last, but certainly not least, you have the boulders. These are your ‘forever people.’ They’re the ones you know will always stand steadfast in your corner. Whether you’re in the same room as them, or 10,000 miles away – your boulders are the folks to spend the most time on.” Wise words, right? They were perfectly timed & acted as a salve to my worried heart. Lesson learned. Build your dreams on solid ground. Whatever the reason, lesson, or purpose for relationships that catch fire & then fizzle, the people that matter most are the ones you can hold onto no matter the surge of the sea.
- Chase your dreams
Seriously & literally – chase the things you want most. Grab your sneakers, lace up & sprint in the direction of your dreams. Hassle them, haunt them, & keep them consistently in your line of sight. If you can see the end goal, then the roads you take while running after them don’t matter as much. If I’ve learned anything this year about accomplishing long-term/Bucket List goals, it’s that motion begets motion. If you’re consistently moving in the direction of where you want to be, eventually you’ll get there. For me, I wanted to branch out. To start speaking more. To start sharing with others the experience I’ve built over an entire adulthood of storytelling for brands. So, I went to the conferences I wanted to go to. I became friends with people who think deep, laugh loud, & do good. I started doing a lot more work in the community. I began mentoring others. I joined advisory boards. And… I took more time out to dance in the living room with my little family. If you’re a list writer, write three things you’d like to accomplish in 2018, then start chasing your dreams. Remember to go easy on yourself, too. The uphill bits are a slog, but when you hit flat part of the journey & take time to enjoy successes you’ll find it’s all worth it. Promise.
- Ask nicely
As my parents told me as a child, ‘Manners matter.’ And, they do. If you’re looking for leadership, assistance, insider-information, or simply someone’s time – ask them nicely. It’s commonsense that we should treat others the way we’d like to be treated. So whether it’s at work or at play, make kindness the foundation of your communications & you’ll be fundamentally better off from the get-go. With kindness at the core of what you stand for, people will be more willing to trust you, as well as be keen to work with you & for you. They’ll also be open to saying ‘Yes’ more often or pointing you in the right direction when they can when you have to lean on them for help. Remember timing, too. When asking for someone’s time, be sure it’s a good time for them. Great communication is two-way & no one is ever a success on their own. Not one single person. Asking for help at the right time is a skill that comes with maturity & experience. Asking nicely is the key to getting the answers you’re either looking for or need.
- Listen more
We’ve all heard the old saying about we humans having two ears & one mouth, & using them in proportion. I think listening goes beyond this though. How often are we now distracted by our phones? The sugar-rush of a Facebook notification or a tag on Instagram pulls us out of the here-and-now more often than it should. I’ll be the first to put my hand up as a guilty party to being drawn into the endless chasm that is the interwebs at my fingertips. I have to consciously put my phone away & turn off notifications when traveling. And, I’m so glad that I do this! Listening, truly & deeply, quite often means that you need to make time & space to concentrate on one person, one idea, one conversation at a time. Investing this kind of attention is almost foreign these days. But, it’s so important to creating long-lasting, deep relationships. People often only skim the surface when getting to know their colleagues or friends outside of work – but I spend more time than not listening. I am keen to know what makes a person tick. What drives their passion. What makes them feel their best self. When you take the time to know someone, they’ll often take the same time to invest in you. That’s what deep listening is all about. It’s not just closing the big sale, getting the creative idea over the line, or selling in a business strategy – it’s about humanity. It’s about trust. It’s about genuine joy in spending time with others.
- Take breaks
Sprinters don’t sprint 24/7/365. Their hearts, lungs, legs, & brains wouldn’t last if they did. Instead, they practice then rest. They perform then rest. And on, and on, and on… Just like sprinters, those of us working in corporate or non-corporate environments that’re “always on” need to rest, too. One thing that absolutely grinds my gears is when someone catches me in the middle of another project & asks me to be “creative” or “innovative” or do something transcendental on the spot. Erm, that’s not how it works. My secret sauce of creating great strategic & creative work is rest. Quite often it’s not when I’m mired down in briefs & paperwork that my best ideas come, rather it’s when I put them down & go for a run or walk outdoors. When my mind is rested & my body is working, I’m able to come up with much more holistic & creative ideas than when put on the spot. Beyond resting for the sake of problem solving, there’s also the necessity in taking breaks with the simple end goal of not burning out being high on the Life Priority List. Just as I feel with physical fitness, it’s easier to stay in-shape mentally through a balanced approach to life, than it is to burn out & have to get in shape all over again. The moral of the ‘take breaks’ story? Be like Nike, Just Do It. Every ounce of your being will thank you.
- Don’t waste your energy on negative shit storms
Negative shit storms are powerful bringers of crappy outcomes, feelings & interactions. Like tornadoes of temerity, they pull in most things in their path & deliver only negativity. When I see a negative shit storm on the horizon, I head in the opposite direction. There’s just not enough time in the day, or f*cks left to give in my life to want to borrow someone else’s problems or wear their failures. If you’re finding yourself in the eye of a proverbial storm, get out. Life’s short. Too short. And, if you spend your time on pushing peas of displeasure around a plate, you’re not going to find happiness, success, or pleasure in your life. If you’re keen to prioritize positivitiy & happiness do this: think about who the most positive influences are on your life or your professional journey, & spend as much time as possible on & with these bringers of awesome. For the ones you see as harbingers of yuckiness, kick them to the curb. You’ve got complete control over how, where, & who you spend your precious time with. Choose wisely.
- Do the scary stuff
This is hard. Scary stuff is just that – scary. And as humans, we’re most comfortable when we’re in a state of being comfortable. Stepping outside of our comfort zones is terrifying most of the time. Especially as we grow up, get older, & fail more & more. This year I’ve learned to love failure. To embrace growth, education, & uncertainty as building blocks of my best version of me. In the last year, I’ve made some BIG decisions. I’ve lost friends. I’ve grown in leaps & bounds personally & professionally. And, I’ve had those pre-show jitters each time I needed to make a hard decision, walk away from something that wasn’t right for me, or step up onto a bigger stage than I’d ever imagined. If you don’t to the scary stuff, you’ll never grow. My best approach for jumping-in-headlong is simple: test the depth of the water, then jump in over your head. You know how to swim. Even if you sink a little bit, you’ll be back up for air in no time.
- Focus on your passions
This may sound simple, but it’s not. Quite often we put off the things that fill our soul the most for ‘responsibilities’. And, in doing so, don’t fill our souls. This year I’ve spent more time doing what I love. Writing, testing storytelling platforms (vlogs happened!), playing the piano, singing silly songs with my daughter, making plans for the future… so many things! When I look back, I’m fairly chuffed with how much I got done from a passion-project perspective. Lots of people ask how I ‘fit everything in’ to a day, week, or month… and my answer is simple: focus. I think most of us with our fingers on so many pulses are actually doing ourselves a disservice. Without focus, we lack a true course towards completing a project or being truly happy. Turn off your phone. Silence your email notifications. Go back to what drives you to be your best self, & nurture that passion. I promise that focus will be the magic that drives creation & success if you tend to it like you would a garden.
- Give back
Without ego & without expecting anything in return. Sometimes it seems like everyone wants a piece of me, of you, of all of us… & there’s not enough time to give back. As to the above, with focus, you can prioritize giving back into your life. Whether it’s simply taking an extra five minutes to help a colleague with a particularly curly situation, donating your time to a community organization, or dropping a gold coin or two into a bucket as you pass by – giving back is the best way I know to feel more useful to other people. I feel very blessed to be where I am, so if there’s anything I can do to lift another up, I will. Give back. Often. I’m glad I made doing so a priority this year – & am committed to doing the same again next year.
- Do more
I know this seems in direct contradiction to the above piece where I said we should all take more breaks or risk burning out. So, hear me out. What I mean by ‘do more’ is this: do more of the things that make you feel. Feel good. Feel worthy. Feel helpful. Feel strong. Feel confident. Feel happy. This year, I decided I’d read more, wander more, talk more, listen more, rest more. I also listen to my body more – rest when I’m sick, run fast when I’m healthy. And, my do-more attitude has meant I’ve lived more. Memories are the currency I hold most highly in this world, & by doing more I’ve made so many more memories. I’ll be doing more in 2018, too. Here’s to what’s to come!
So, there you have it.
Ten things that’ve really stuck with me this year. Next year, I’m planning on accomplishing a lot. I’m set on dedicating more time, energy, & attention span to my loved ones & my passion projects. And, I reckon I’ll try to sit down near the ocean every single day to simply think, feel small, & be thankful for breathing in salty air.
To you & yours, I wish you the best end of 2017. Have fun, get silly, & be safe. Keep dreaming. Keep living. And, above all else, search for the good in your days. I promise you this – a positive attitude is the most powerful tool you’ll ever have in defining & achieving successes in life.
A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who’s been supportive, kind, helpful, & loving this year. My heart & soul thank you for your time, energy, & love.
2017, you’ve been a cracker of a trip around the sun. I reckon there’s a cold brewski with my name on it calling out to be sipped… see y’all on the interwebs.