I recently celebrated my 44th trip around the sun. It was a lovely day of self-care and family time, and I also spent a bit of time reflecting on what I learned over the past year. I share my reflections in the hopes that they offer learnings for you, too.
Life is so much better when you stop taking things personally. I’ve learned to take the good from feedback and let the rest go. What do I mean by this? When you get critical feedback from someone, you often get their emotion, bias, and worldview layered into it. This in itself is not bad or unusual; all of us are a collection of our life experiences, emotions and thoughts. But when you receive feedback, it doesn’t mean you have to own the other person’s feelings. In fact, when you take feedback at its face value — a piece of information that you can use to become more effective at work or in a relationship — the more helpful the feedback can be. When you get your feelings hurt or stew on the other person’s emotions, you take the feedback personally, and it causes suffering. This year, I made many adjustments based on feedback people gave me, but I chose not to get upset by any of it or take it personally. Feedback makes me a better leader and not taking it personally makes my life more enjoyable. I advise you to say thank you for the feedback, take action where you need to, and let the rest go.
And I’ve learned to ignore the haters; there’s no sense in paying attention to criticisms from those sitting on the sidelines, watching you work hard to create the life you want and go after your dreams. Don’t pay attention to those who criticize you or try to tell you that your dreams aren’t worth following. Not everyone will like you or believe in you, and that’s okay!
The grass isn’t greener on the other side. The grass is the greenest where you water it, so water your own grass and see how it grows! I bet on myself this year and went after my dreams, and I’m living a fuller, more meaningful life. What do I mean by watering my own grass? Investing in myself. When you invest in yourself, you are taking your life and career into your own hands…the only hands they belong in. And there is no better investment. This past year, I hired a speaking coach, made improvements to my website, took a class on how to be a high-impact board of director, attended a speakers BootCamp, read 50+ books, got a weekly massage and rode my Peloton almost every damn day. My life is better for all of these things; by doing them, I am progressing toward my life’s vision. My advice to you, find one or two ways to invest in yourself, even if they are small. These investments could be anything…learning a new skill, taking care of yourself, deepening your education, or following a passion.
Being cool, calm and collected no matter what life throws at you makes it easier to navigate conflict and uncertainty. Life is better when you keep your cool. How do I stay cool, calm and collected? Whenever my blood pressure rises, I take deep breaths and ask myself, “How do I want people to experience me right now?” My answer is, “An unflappable leader/spouse/friend who finds solutions to problems calmly and helpfully.” Being cool, calm and collected makes it easier to navigate stressful situations and for people to share their feelings or come to you with issues. The biggest payoff: I find myself a lot less stressed when I take things in stride. How can you be a calmer person? Be curious about yourself and learn about your triggers. You can make a different choice when you understand why you want to react in a moment. I used the Enneagram personality assessment to help me understand my triggers and coping mechanisms and learned ways to move through emotional responses healthily.
Practicing a lot leads to self-mastery. I set a goal of becoming a world-class speaker, and while I still have a ways to go, the practice is paying off. Not only am I speaking on a stage regularly, but I am also practicing through my podcast, Reflect Forward. The only way to get good at something is to do it as often as you can with intentionality and focus. Plus, getting good at something might just turn into your passion, which we all want in our lives. Don’t be afraid to do the work.
Writing a book is really hard and really rewarding. My book, “The Ownership Mindset,” will come out in 2023 and I am so excited. It took a ton of work, feedback, and tradeoffs about how I spent my time, but it was a lifelong goal, and I made it happen. There is no other way to achieve something big but to do the work. If you have a story inside of you, find a way to get it on paper. And if you need help writing a story, read “Stories That Stick” by Kindra Hall. It’s an easy read and will help you create stories that move people.
Never underestimate the power of a clear vision. As the Cheshire Cat says in Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you are going, any path will get you there.” I’ve written my life vision and my vision for StoneAge in detail, and I use them to guide decision-making and create alignment. Both visions have evolved, and by documenting them, it’s easy to adjust them as I gain more experience and learn about what’s working and not. And I love seeing documented, verifiable progress — it keeps me motivated and moving forward. Write out your vision and revisit it every year on your birthday, noting how it’s evolving and your progress on your path to designing your life.
I am so looking forward to this next trip around the sun. I know it will be filled with unique challenges and opportunities to become a better person and leader. It will be exciting to see what unfolds. I hope you can also find meaning and gifts during your next trip around the sun.
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