What I Learned in 2016

As 2016 wraps up, I’ve decided to reprise last year’s “what I learned” post and share some notes on what I’ve learned this year (this will be the final post of 2016). Because my writing has straddled the line between business and personal this year, I’ve broken this year’s list according to those two worlds. Heads up: this year was a doozie so this list is a bit longer than year’s past.

Take care and be well in 2017 :)

Personal

Your happiness comes from you. Other people, things, etc., will never make you happy if you can’t make yourself happy. Part of this involves accepting that happiness is a temporary state, just like sadness, anger, and every mood in between. Expect varying states of mind and let them come and go as necessary. In simpler terms: you ain’t always happy and you ain’t always sad.

“Bliss comes in waves.” — Jim Carrey

Change is good. It makes you question yourself, your beliefs, and your choices. Whenever a major shift occurs, study it. Understand what it’s trying to teach you. The bigger the change, the more lessons it likely contains. Take your time and pay attention to the details.

Speed is relative. What someone else may think of as “too slow” can be perfectly fine to you. Operate at a pace that’s in sync with who you are and what you want right now. This is always changing, so learn to flow with it. You’ll know when you’ve got this right (hint: you won’t feel like crap about what you’re doing).

Environment is essential. If where you are doesn’t sync up with who you are, prepare for turmoil. This is life-wide: your work, your home, etc.

Efficiency is everything. If you’re tired, stop working and go to bed. If you’re not focused, meditate and/or exercise for a little bit and then try again. Efficient use of time is far more important than duration.

Caring about what others think and living your live in relation to what others think about you is a death sentence. If you want to do something bigger than what you’ve been taught or know, you have to learn to say “no” and keep moving forward. You are who you are. The sooner you come to terms with and enjoy that, the better.

Notebooks for 2016

Write stuff down. Seriously. This was on last year’s list, too, but after doing it regularly for a year, I can’t imagine moving forward without it. My short-term memory is terrible and it helps to have a repository for things that stand out in your thoughts. Ultimately, I’ve found this is a great tool for aiding in retrospection and understanding how you’ve progressed over time.

Patience is one of the best assets you can acquire. Once you get that, everything else is cake. Practice containing your disbelief that some things may take more than a few seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, or years to happen.

When life is kicking you, take the downtime to improve and course-correct (read: admit and accept your faults). Don’t dwell on what you didn’t get right in the past. Life is iterative. Getting stuck in the past is wasting your existence on things you cannot change. Pay attention to what you got wrong and get on the road to fixing it, immediately.

It’s perfectly okay to not be involved in the affairs of others. Sometimes people are not the answer. Don’t feel bad about wanting to be alone for however long you see fit. To make this comfortable for others, just be honest and say you want to be alone (yes, they need confirmation you’re not having a meltdown/teetering on the ledge).

Just be honest with yourself and others. It’s not worth the inner turmoil to hide what’s really happening in your head. Of course, don’t always expect your honesty to be met with elation; sometimes the truth doesn’t get the reaction you want it to. Be prepared for all outcomes, not just the happy one.

Slow and steady is the answer. I lost ~70lbs in the last 12 months with minimal effort. All I did was watch the type of food I was eating and how much of it (read: calories), with a bit of weightlifting at home a few times a week. If you’re not looking to meet extreme goals (e.g., bodybuilder), you can accomplish a lot over an extended window. It’s mostly psychological. This applies to everything, not just health and fitness. Stretch out your timeline and wonderful things can happen.

Get up really early and go to bed really early. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when the lights are dim and everyone else is asleep. It’s hard to do this consistently every day, but when you can it’s an incredibly helpful aid for focus.

Make more spur of the moment decisions. You’re going to die; pepper in some craziness. Just be careful not to go too far down the rabbit hole.

Fear nothing and be flexible. Yeah, life will throw you some curveballs and you won’t always get what you want, but that’s nothing to be afraid of. Learn to be at peace no matter what circumstances you find yourself in and it’s likely you’ll never find yourself in a bad place.

Remain calm. Panic is a waste of energy. Learn to catch yourself when you start panicking and laugh. Realize how silly it is. Let other people panic for you. Eventually, they’ll wear themselves out and need a nap. Then you can do what you need to do with peace and quiet.

Just try it. Most stuff you think is scary, threatening, or too difficult is harmless and well within your wheelhouse. Give everything an honest try and after you’ve actually done it, then you can develop an opinion about it.

Keep in touch. I didn’t do this properly for years and deeply regret it. People want to hear from you just as much as you want to hear from them.

Love is real and tough. Enjoy it while you have it as it may not always be around. Try to nurture it, but let it be its own thing, too. If it’s supposed to be there, it will be naturally (this is hard to articulate, but you just know it). If it goes away, let it; don’t force it or grasp at it no matter how much it hurts.

Business

People buy the marketing, not the product. But, they’ll abandon the product if it doesn’t live up to the marketing.

When you’re young: be willing to work harder than everyone else. Every second counts. You don’t want to wake up empty handed when you’re too old to do something about it. This is really hard when folks around you don’t aspire to the same things as you (nothing wrong with this). Attune your pace to your own desires, not those of others. Don’t be surprised/disconcerted if your ambition raises a few eyebrows, though.

“All the livin’ that you’re saving, won’t buy your dreams for you.” — Townes Van Zandt

If it takes you longer than expected, you’re on schedule.

Jump through the hoops. Rules are annoying, but following them puts you right in the eyes of gatekeepers (i.e., pay your taxes and other fees, even if you disagree with them).

Measurement is essential. You have to know where you’re at and what you have/haven’t accomplished in order to steer yourself in the right direction. This is something you have to continuously work to improve, too.

How it makes you feel is far more important than its direct benefits.

Being assertive makes life a hell of a lot easier. Usually, a hiss will keep you from having to bite.

There will always be folks who are never satisfied with what you give or tell them. This is great for business—more holes to plug, opportunities to discover—but can be terrible for your personal mental health. Don’t take them too seriously. They’re not mad at you, they’re mad about other things in their life. You’re just an easy target.

TMC Editorial Minutes

Learn to give up control. It’s not easy, but it’s a serious boon on progress. People are smart, so take care of and trust them. Actively engage with your team (at any size) and make sure they have what they need to be as effective as possible. Hint: weekly check-ins are crazy helpful for keeping everyone focused/in a good place (take minutes like the photo above!).

Everyone wants to tell you why you’re wrong or what you’re doing wrong. That’s okay. Develop a thick skin, but LISTEN to what they’re saying. Adjust your filter to always be looking for negative feedback. Stuff your ego in a sack and suffocate it.

Just because someone else already did it, doesn’t mean you can’t do it better. First is rarely the best. If you honestly think you can do a better version, don’t hesitate. Customers know the difference; let them vote with their attention and dollars.


Stay out of trouble,
Ryan