At the beginning of each year, I look back on the previous year to see what worked, what didn’t, and what I can take from all of my experiences to make the most of the present. This process helps to hold me accountable so that I can more fully show up in my life and business.
I don't rush into the “new year, new year” BS which is why it typically takes me a full month to collect my thoughts. I also don't believe in “goals.” I do intentions by choosing three distinct and separate words each year in place of a New Year's resolution. These words guide your choices and actions for the upcoming year. My hope is that these lessons learned are also helpful to you. If you have any thoughts, please let me know!
Here are my words for the past eight years:
2011: Creativity, Connection, Mindfulness.
2012: Mindfulness, Spontaneity, Simplicity.
2013: Build. Track. Focus.
2017: Rebirth (along with 6 Things I Learned in 2017).
2018: Curiosity and Efficiency
2019: Joy (I think I finally nailed this in 2020)
Here is what I learned in 2019 (some lessons take me back to a decade ago):
1. Leadership is about raising problems
I've been self-employed for almost a decade now (besides a brief 6-month stint) for many reasons: Once you're an employee at a company, it's nearly impossible to push back and “raise problems.” You're forced to play the dog and pony show and pretend that everything is alright (even if you see ways to improve).
As Nilofer Merchant writes in this HBR.org article:
Between knowing there’s a problem, and not knowing the answer to that problem is discomfort. Discomfort is not the same thing as unsafe. It’s just a temporary feeling we live with while we work on things.
From my experience, companies who can lean into this discomfort and acknowledge the problem: 1) Bring in a lot more revenue. 2) Have less employee turnover 3) Have a thriving culture
Most leadership teams need to embody the discomfort that's necessary to make positive change. Discomfort gets easier as you grow as a leader. And it also gets easier as a company when they appreciate the Linchpins of the world.
2. Marketing is no longer about grabbing attention. It’s about maintaining it.
Podcasting is the #1 most powerful platform for content creation. It's one of the most powerful threads to unite our humanity. Over the years, I've worked with brands to build a content strategy and many of these strategies involve the creation of a branded podcast show.
I also launched Season 5 of my own podcast, the Art of Humanity. My podcast is my art and it's a constant work in progress. I'm thrilled that I get to interview (and often meet in-real-life) the people I respect and admire (many of my guests have changed my life!)
3. We need to combat the forces of darkness through an “inner revolution.”
It's been hard to hold fast to my path in a world of quick fixes, financial gains and “improved” status. I need to be open-minded enough to see when things aren't working in my business but closed-minded enough to know when to say “No” to opportunities that are not in alignment. I'm endlessly striving to find that place of brutal honesty. It often comes alongside heart and soul-wrenching grief and inspiration. The yin and the yang. Dark and light.
For some of the year, I wanted to numb out. And I did. I reverted back to old habits like drinking and shopping. It's hard to stay minimalist when you achieve financial success. I need a constant reminder that more possessions won't make me happy (it's indoctrinated into our culture to “buy more!”)
Minimalism is more internal work than an outside broadcast about how little you own. Minimalism goes deeper than possessions: It helps you to redefine what has meaning and it can help to eliminate destructive habits that no longer serve you.
Staying embodied and not dissociated is some of the most essential and challenging work our generation is tasked with right now. It's the deep work that not everyone has the courage to do.
I used to chase materialism and the lies that feed them. After being sober curious, I spent much of the last half of 2019 completely sober. And it's not easy.
How did I do it? I embraced more “healthy” vices like sauna baths, started to meditate again (after time away) and lots of yoga and hiking.
4. Paid media growth plateaus without genuine and authentic content.
This is more of a business insight than personal. But after working with hundreds of brands over the past year, it's excruciatingly evident that organic, Human Content™ is the only way to survive in the online world. People can see past anything inauthentic.
5. Natural, human conversation is the true language of commerce.
This quote is taken from The Cluetrain Manifesto which I just happened to find in an old Slideshare presentation that I created together for a course. And it's TRUE! I'm grateful to have the opportunity to work with conscious brands who get this simple truth. And I'm honored that my business gets to create Human Content that creates conversations and brings in business for these brands.
6. I stopped the glorification of busy.
Our culture LOVES being busy because it makes you seem more valuable.
But when you’re glorifying something that makes you feel scattered and small, it’s hard to live up to your potential. Being “busy” leads to burn out and I got caught up in the vicious cycle this year. I wasn't able to maintain my own calendar and I temporarily lost sight of the big picture.
But the moment I eliminated the word “busy” from my vocabulary, I finally felt liberated and free. I woke up one day and decided that I wanted to be a human BEING and not a human DOING. I no longer wanted to live the rest of my life in a chaotic, frenetic pace.
From this moment, here’s what changed:
- I started to say NO to opportunities that weren’t aligned and YES to more things that led me to who I wanted to become. The irony is that it’s often not easy saying NO because you have FOMO. Well, let that go too!
- I redefined my definition of success. Instead of “being busy” with useless tasks that had me spinning on a hamster wheel, I started to life with more intention, contemplation and purpose.
- I stopped working harder. And started working smarter. In the beginning of this year I started to beat myself up for not growing quickly enough. So I did what some would see as business suicide and took a six-month hiatus. But it was this hiatus that allowed me to see the value of systems + processes which are THE EVERYTHING to running a biz that’s in flow.
- My new focus is now on processes and systems//streamlining workflows. This in turn leads to more hours in the day for adventures, reading, hiking, yoga, contemplation, and launching Podcast Incubator.
Do I get it right all of the time? Hell no. I’ve made many bad decisions. But if bad decisions eventually lead you to asking important questions then everything will eventually click…but it won’t happen when you’re busy.
When things get too busy, ask yourself these two simple questions: What are you doing that really matters? And how can you do more of that?
7. Knowing your own darkness is the best method to understand the darkness of other people.
I nerd out over philosophy, psychology, marketing and consciousness because if I “know everything,” I won’t need to be in pain.
But the truth is that even after reading 50 books in one year, I’m still tormented by not knowing enough. another book won’t feed the dull ache of Being Human.
It’s an addictive pattern of escape. A distraction from uncomfortable feelings, and also part of my desire to Make Sense of a Reality that’s nearly impossible to interpret. It’s a struggle for control – a move to attain higher ground.
But what if there is no higher ground? What if everyone is doing the best they can? what if even the lower ground…especially the lower ground…is all an access point to Divinity?
judgment or shame
repercussion or seduction
persecution or disillusion
It’s all the same.
I changed my handle to @BeingisHuman across social media as a reminder that it’s Safe to Be.
It’s safe to Be.
how do we steer our human vessels
back to Being,
back to Love?
We live in a society and culture that’s built upon generations of trauma. fear. And shame for being human. not much is balanced.
what we need is a New Way
so that we can
dance above our history
bliss out in the mystery
and revel in the simplicity
Then maybe we can attain higher ground.
8. “Read everything. listen to everybody. believe nothing unless you can prove it with your own research.” – William Cooper
I researched a lot of different theories, each one feeding the next. It makes me feel like I “know something but it also can spin me out. Ironically, this quote is from a “conspiracy theorist” who wrote the book Behold the Pale Horse.
It's important to not automatically buy-in to what the mainstream is saying. They are often regurgitating programs and the mainstream is often pre-programmed to defend the narrative. At the same time, you don't want to spin out.
7. “Love is misunderstood to be an emotion; actually, it is a state of awareness, a way of being in the world, a way of seeing oneself and others.” – David Hawkins
These words by one of my teachers allow me to soften + see the world through a beautiful prism. An aerial view…endlessly zooming out of each moment of life to see the perspective from above. Looking down at the small specks of our human condition is a superpower. I used to live by the quick fix: shopping, xanax, alcohol. I was told in college that I’d need medication for my anxiety for my entire life.
Eight years ago I started the journey home to myself, by refusing to medicate my anxiety with a pill. By escaping the prison of scientific materialism and Big Pharma, I broke free from how I “should live” and started to live without a crutch.
Today I’m drunk on Truth. I sip knowledge and taste excitement as I alter my perceptions through a mostly sober life. I meditate over medicate because I realized that the answers are not in happy pills or soulless simulations.
By replacing quick fixes with an acceptance and even celebration of our insecurities, we can integrate the darkness of our past with the Light of our future. these are the spaces where we can change. These are the spaces where we can breathe.