The 5 Things I Learned in 2017

2017 was a good year.

I saw some births, some deaths, and some new beginnings.

I saw a close friend lose his battle to cancer. I left a comfortable career with a quickly-growing company. I made some personal decisions that forced me to get outside my comfort zone.

Yet, 2017 was a year of tremendous growth.

So here’s the top 5 things I learned in 2017.

Don’t be afraid to rock the boat

I used to work with this guy who would tell me one thing, then do another.

Know the type?

He’d say what he wanted to do, then completely fold under pressure. He was fearful. He was afraid to do the right thing because he was comfortable, fat, and happy. He was afraid to rock the boat.

If he rocked it, he’d likely be branded as “negative” or “stressed.” If he’d done the right thing by causing some much-needed discord as a catalyst to growth, he’d possibly have lost his job. (highly unlikely, but possible)

He was the kind of guy to tell you one thing, and then do another. He lacked courage and conviction. He’d talk a good game, but lacked the backbone to draw a line in the sand when a difficult conversation needed to happen.

These are folks who lie to themselves and lie to others around them. It’s a false harmony they’ve created in their minds as a survival technique. It’s a terrible way to work and live.

Last year, I started rocking the boat. I began with speaking up, and speaking out. I finally grew a backbone.

As a consequence to rocking the boat, I was unfortunately labeled as stressed and negative, but I wasn’t.

For 39 years I’ve lived under the guise that it’s okay to lie to people because it’s unkind to tell the truth to someone when it might offend them or hurt their feelings.

Are you okay with lying or being lied to?

Or would you want someone to offer you radical candor, like author Kim Scott did, when she needed to hear it the most?

When you choose to introduce change by rocking the boat, you’ll encounter resistance along the way. You’ll encounter resistance from your own insecurities and resistance from those around you. Keep rocking the boat.

Stand up for yourself

Let me clarify this point by first stating what it’s not.

Standing up for yourself is not punching someone back if they insulted you. It’s not vengeful or retaliatory. Standing up for yourself is not about teaching someone a lesson.

Standing up for yourself is learning to be transparent and authentic. It’s going to be difficult at times, but if you learn to express yourself openly and honestly, you’ll feel like a hundred pound weight is lifted off your shoulders.

Often times, we hide behind halfhearted smiles and nods instead of saying what needs to be said. This discipline takes lots of practice, but learning to be authentic about what you are feeling or thinking is step number one. Once you get in the habit of making yourself heard without being overly accommodating or defensive, people will be more open to hearing you.

Standing up for yourself means you’ll learn to how to handle when someone attacks you. You’ll learn the value of facing those who want to override you, as there will always be personalities who are set to attack mode. When you learn to properly stand up for yourself, you’ll be able to remain calm yet assert yourself when you feel like someone is trying to bully you. You’ll avoid becoming frazzled by reacting with low blows. When those around you attempt to browbeat you, walk the high road but stand your ground and stand up for yourself.

Filter your relationships

There are givers and takers in this life.

Givers are those who put into you. They are those who encourage you and challenge you to be a better person. They’re honest with you, they push you, they force you to think. Givers impart wisdom and sound counsel that’s geared to make you uncomfortable, yet loving enough to motivate you to be a better version of yourself.

Takers on the other hand are people who are critical, lie to you, and make excuses through a victim mentality. Takers are manipulative and rarely change. Takers go behind your back with gossip. When you encounter takers, you have to set up boundaries and keep them at a distance.

Takers are false victims. They typically have a pessimistic attitude and struggle taking responsibility for their lives. Takers are also bullies. Bullies don’t laugh at themselves, rather they laugh at others. If this person in your life makes fun of others but isn’t self deprecating, they’re a taker and need to go. Think of this person as dramatic and loud-mouthed. Bullies want submission and that’s the unhealthy relationship of a taker.

If you want to grow and mature, surround yourself by mature people by getting rid of the takers in your life.

Be open and honest

A few years ago, I was in business with a very good friend.

My friend is intense, ambitious, and driven. Because of this, he sometimes came off as unapproachable. Others we worked with would come to me to voice frustrations, instead of going to him. They would complain and vent, without being open and honest with my friend.

It was maddening. I became a go-between and I hated it.

After while, I simply challenged those on my team to go directly to my partner-in-crime to talk with him, open and honestly.

Few actually did. They chose to talk about my friend and colleague, instead of talking to him. They weren’t open and honest and failed at the most basic form of communication: direct one on one dialogue.

It’s tough talking about sensitive topics. Choosing to be open with someone can be incredibly scary.

But wouldn’t you like the freedom of a good nights sleep because your conscious is clear, rather than perpetuating a bigger problem?

In 2018, choose to be more open and honest with those around you. Don’t be the go-between and encourage those around you to tackle issues directly.

Quit

You have to love three things about your job, or whatever it is you do as a vocation.

You have to love the people, the place, and the product/service your company is selling, in order to not be miserable.

If any of these is completely out of alignment, then consider a professional career change.

The motivation I needed to question this aspect of my career came from a friend of mine who ultimately died from cancer. I did some deep introspection while watching him struggle.

One of the things he said he’d miss most was the smell of freshly cut grass.

He also said he had regrets in his life. Regrets that would bother him until his death. I listened and learned a tremendous amount while praying for my sick friend.

He encouraged me, even pushed me, to take the risk I was apprehensive to take. The fear of not taking a risk scared me more than taking a risk and failing, so I did.

I quit my job as the head of marketing at a quickly growing SaaS company to pursue being self-employed as a solopreneur.

You can listen to the story on this podcast.

The company I quit had an awesome product that solved a HUGE problem for small businesses. From a marketing perspective, it was great to market. It offered amazing automation results, had virtually no competitors, was innovative, and game-changing for technology businesses.

But the people and place were changing. The culture wasn’t the same when I first started and I didn’t like what I saw. So I did something about it. I took action by quitting and went back to the world of self-employment.

I couldn’t be happier.

One book that inspired me was The Reluctant Entrepreneur by Michael Masterson. Check it out, here. If you’re considering making a change from a W-2 employee to self-employment, you need this book.

Don’t just take a paycheck to take a paycheck. To me, that’s the same as stealing. Instead, formulate a plan to take the plunge into doing something you love. There’s no such thing as a dream job, so don’t chase that. Rather, find that one thing that you love to do and chase it until you catch it.

What were some of your highlights in 2017?

Share in the comments below. I’d love to hear about them.

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