For so many of us, 2020 has been a year of unexpected challenges and opportunities, sorrows and delights, and a whole lot to process going forward.
I always enjoy the process of journaling and reflecting at the end of each year, but this year, it feels non-negotiable. As though the lessons and experiences of this year need to be written out of my system in order to be fully processed and embodied.
And so with that in mind, here are some of the lessons that most stood out to me from a year full of growth, experimentation, small steps backward…
Don’t feel like you need to say something that changes the world.
Few ever utter such words.
And yet we feel like if we can’t say something profound we’re better off saying nothing at all.
But this is not our only option.
We can aim to simply say something small.
Something that means a lot to only a few.
Maybe only to one.
There’s power in small sayings spoken to a select few.
Get good at speaking small.
It’s not about reaching everyone at once.
It’s about planting a seed that gets spread, person to person…
Don’t do it for the success.
Don’t do it because it could be your ticket to fame and fortune.
Do it for the experience.
Because once you’ve done it once, you can do it better the next time.
Or because the experience itself was worth it, even if you never do it again.
Do it because maybe you’ll realize that it’s not what you really wanted in the first place.
That it won’t take you where you want to go.
That there’s a better route to your destination.
Do it because regardless of the outcome, you’ll learn something.
It’s tempting to jump into a new project the moment you feel inspiration strike and the excitement in running hot. After all, it’s not hard to be excited when you only have a vague idea of what’s really going to be involved.
But before starting down a path that will take you away from your current priorities, it’s worth asking yourself some questions about the project.
So often we take on work without knowing what the end result we’re really working toward is. …
We’d all like to jump ahead.
To skip the journey and arrive at our destination
Unscathed by the heartbreaks, defeats, and failures we know to be inevitable along the way.
Sometimes we feel we deserve to be there already.
That we’ve put in all the work that should be expected of us,
Made all the sacrifices that could be asked of us,
That after all we’ve done, we should be somewhere other than where we are.
It’s a wonderful lie to tell ourselves.
A lie that lets us off the hook.
That almost allows us to believe we can move…
“What gets measured gets managed,” goes the saying.
But often, it doesn’t end there.
It also gets prioritized, optimized for, and sometimes even chased blindly.
For better or worse, what you choose to measure dictates your focus, your choices, and your actions.
This can lead to unintended side effects.
When shareholder value is the only metric that gets tracked, is it any surprise that people, communities, and the environment are negatively impacted?
Likely, that negative impact goes entirely unnoticed by the company that isn’t measuring those metrics.
It’s no wonder we often default to measuring the metrics we do.
We often resist investing in improving our skills because the promised change feels too insignificant.
We could take a course on web design, or copywriting, or Facebook Ads, or any of a hundred other skills that we know would benefit us, both in the short and long term.
But we also know that even after taking the course we’ll be far from mastery of the skill.
To develop the level of mastery that we feel would be truly helpful to us would take many courses, months, or years of study, with a lot of practice along the way.
It’s hard to argue that continual learning is a bad thing.
The relentless pursuit of heaping more onto our ever-growing mountain of knowledge is a core part of today’s entrepreneurial culture.
And if we want to follow in the footsteps of those who have come before, learning from their successes and failures is a good place to start.
But what if we don’t want to follow in their footsteps?
What if we seek a different path?
Not business as usual, but business unusual?
Yes, we need to learn.
But maybe even more important, we need to unlearn.
How many times have you made it to the end of the week and asked the question?
You’ve worked exceedingly long hours on tasks that felt important in the moment.
In hindsight, however, they appear to have been spent merely bailing water.
When it comes to the things that matter, the needle remains unmoved.
So where to start?
What can we do when every task feels both urgent and important?
When we alone are capable of completing them?
When they overwhelm and crowd out the work that truly sets our soul on fire?
The work we know we’re capable of.
Too often we end up creating only as a reflex.
We have to fill that space on our content calendar with something after all.
So we create with the end goal of filling that space.
We maintain our production streak while failing to say anything worth saying.
So if content production for content production’s sake isn’t what we’re shooting for, what is?
At its core, our work should be created to achieve one purpose.
If we seek to create work that matters, our goal with each piece of content, each product, each creative endeavor is to create change in…
Founder of podcast production and content amplification agency Counterweight Creative. Believer in the power of kindness and generosity.