Like many people across the globe, I am ringing in New Years with best hopes to make the coming year my best yet. While there are numerous things that will always be challenges for me, my optimism for the future is unbridled. Why? Because I believe my life is primarily within my control. And I’m both motivated and hopeful for good things. Positive attitude doesn’t solve every woe, but it sure does help.
As the year comes to an end, I’m closing out my year of learning with one big summary. As I hoped and worked towards, I developed some new skills this year for sure. More than actual skill building, however, I embraced my need for “continuous learning” to the extent that I feel like I’m ending 2016 even better off than I entered it. Given the theme of this blog was TweLLLve (12 months, with LLL symbolizing Life Long Learning), here’s my countdown of my top 12 learnings for the year.
12. I LEARNED TO STRENGTHEN MY VOICE
I had numerous opportunities from a work perspective to strengthen my voice and point of view, and share that with others. Through a weekly blog on VentureFizz and LinkedIn, I embraced the fact that it’s not arrogant to share the knowledge and experience I’ve collected over my career; rather it’s appreciated and valued by others attempting to figure it out similar people challenges. Along the way, I made some connections and formed new business relationships. I challenged myself to deeply think through my points of view on topics. And most importantly, I learned to hone in on my slightly humorous/always authentic voice. While that’s the only way I know how to share, not everyone communicates that way. Who would have ever guessed being yourself would be notable?
11. I LEARNED TO MOVE ON
I learned to let go of a former life and not feel bad about it anymore. Several years have now past since my divorce, and my ex has moved on with a new wife, a new baby, and a new life. Am I resentful or jealous? Definitely not. Why? Because I have a fresh start. I have had the opportunity to meet new people. I have the opportunity to fall in love again. I have the opportunity to live anywhere when my kids go off to school. I have the opportunity to create the life I want to live. Thus, I will embrace and cherish the next 4 ½ years I have until both my kids are off to school, and then I will revel in the next step. That, and when I’m off exploring that new future, he’ll be at a kindergarten play. #winning J
10. I LEARNED TO ASK FOR HELP
Nothing like a trip to the hospital to test your independence. When I was down and out recently, my kids and special friends came to the rescue. I know if I had been by myself, I wouldn’t have told anyone or asked for help. And yet my kids sprang into action and took control into their own hands. Thus, I learned a big lesson about people pulling together when needed, and I felt exceptionally loved as a result. I know I would do it for anyone, so when I need it, it’s okay to ask for help.
9. I LEARNED THE BENEFIT OF PATIENCE
From sitting in the passenger seat while my daughter learns to drive and doing my best to calmly provide guidance to making some tough decisions at work, focusing on my patience has been a key learning. I’m someone who leans to impulsiveness and quick action. And yet, sometimes, taking a deep breath and thinking things through so the long-term benefit outweighs the short term is warranted. I’m not in control of every decision, and sometimes the best I can do is guide others to get there. It’s hard for me. And yet, when I take the time to do it, it almost always has a good outcome.
8. I LEARNED I CAN’T PROTECT MY KIDS FROM EVERYTHING
Almost everyone learns their biggest lessons through trial and error. Parenting is no exception. There is no rule book, and we are all essentially making it up as we go along. This year when my daughters experienced a first heartbreak, a new baby sister, and a challenging teacher, there was no formula to follow. I just did as I would want done for me; provide a support system, encouragement, and perspective. And of course, the wisdom that whatever it is, we’ll get through it – together.
7. I LEARNED TEMPORARY IS OK, AND HOW TO MAXIMIZE IT
I moved about two years ago, hoping to both shed the past and create more ease of lifestyle at the same time. In doing so, I chose a house that is perfect for the three of us right now, but is far from my “dream house.” As a result, my attitude sucked about it, and I treated it as a temporary dwelling. Until I woke up one morning and realized, why not make it as nice as I possibility can, regardless of how long I’m there. I got some help, changed it up, and love the new look. Then I turned around and did the same thing to my office at work. Gone are standard features; I filled it with a couch, a smaller desk and it’s a hell of a lot more inviting and functional. I learned to make the most of wherever I am, even if it’s relatively short term.
6. I LEARNED I NEED PEOPLE
Asking for help is one thing. Being in introvert also means I need to push myself to get out there and spend time with others. I have friends that are constantly surrounded by others, and they thrive in that environment. I certainly love people, but in smaller doses. And that’s ok – we are all different. However, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how independent you are, we all need others in our corner cheering us on and sharing our “stuff” with. I sure try to do that for others, and I need it too.
5. I LEARNED I’VE GOT TO LIVE MY LIFE FOR ME, NOT TO PLEASE OTHERS
I don’t do well with obligations. I want to be motivated to want to do something, not be told I have to or feel guilted into it. I spent years trying to do things I thought were going to please my parents or former bosses for example. Those days are over. Of course, there are all things we do in our lives that might not be at the top of the choice list, but I’ve learned saying no sometimes and coming up with an alternative solution to better accommodate me AND them is truly freeing.
4. I LEARNED I NEED DOWNTIME
I am not very good at sitting still. Historically when I’ve been at home watching tv, I will have my laptop open or working on some sort of project…multitasking makes me not feel so guilty for doing otherwise “lazy” activities. Vacations have historically been about seeing and experiencing as much as we can. And yet, we sit in Puerto Rico this week doing precious little other than reading and lying in the sun. And it is glorious. Lesson learned: sometimes just taking both a physical and mental break is incredibly restorative.
3. I LEARNED TO APPRECIATE SMALL THINGS
I love nice things. I don’t need them to be happy, but nothing like theatre tickets or a new purse to put a smile on my face. And yet, you know what’s even better? Being able to buy John, the Vietnam Vet who hangs out in front of Dunkin Donuts by my office a cup of coffee in the morning. Or sharing laughs with my kids over dinner after a long day. Money buys a lot, but it doesn’t buy a happy soul. This year I learned a lot about spending more time being really happy for the small wonders in my life.
2. I LEARNED TO KEEP AN OPEN MIND.
I meet tons of people. Having interviewed thousands of people over the years, I have become fairly adept at getting a read on them fairly quickly. While I remain confident this initial read is disturbingly accurate, it’s also incomplete. Everyone has a story, and it takes more than just a few minutes to truly know a person. I absolutely love getting to know what people and what makes them unique; and when we keep an open mind, it is incredible how much we learn from each other’s experiences.
1. I LEARNED THAT I KIND OF A BAD ASS.
I wrote an article for work a week ago summing up lessons learned in 2016 from my business life. As part of it, I referenced a quote from Shonda Rhimes, amazing creator of shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. She recently published a book called “Year of Yes.” Apparently, unlike most us who fancy the word “No!” when approached with a difficult request, she spent considerable effort saying “yes” to expand her horizons. One of the lines that resonated most with me? “Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass.” She’s right. It’s not luck. It’s hard work. When you put in the blood, sweat, and commitment for everything you achieve, you are not lucky. I’m kind a badass.
I learned a ton this year, and I’m betting you did to. Yes, I learned some new skills, and maybe got a little more knowledge in some areas. My biggest learnings, however, when I paid attention, had an open mind and heart, and embraced time and lessons learned from the wisdom of others.
I loved 2016. And yet, I’m fairly convinced 2017 is going to be even better…because I will work hard to make it so.
Happy New Year!