What I Learned in 2019
Have a standard for who and what you let into your life and respect it.
Making space for personal transformation is key to happiness. What I’m really referring to here is solitude. Separating yourself from the influences of the past/present, spending a lot of time alone (currently, 95% of my time is intentionally spent by myself), and generally “tuning out” to whatever’s going on around you and in the world. Putting a focus on getting yourself right, no matter the sacrifices necessary.
I figured out who I am. The last year was relatively destructive in respect to my personality. I developed an understanding for who I am and why I am the way I am, leading to a lot (not all) of the insecurities that have held me down for most of my life being eliminated.
I believe in God but I’m not religious. This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a long, long time but hadn’t formed a serious opinion on until now. I don’t believe that God is a person, but rather an omnipresent energy that responds according to our individual behavior (i.e., “God helps those that help themselves”). The germ of this belief came from my programming work and realizing that well-organized, complex systems necessitate some level of intention and creativity. I say I’m not religious because while I do feel certain aspects of religion are good, I’m not comfortable with how religion is used to control and manipulate people.
You may reach a point where you’ve seen enough darkness and decide to remove yourself from it entirely. Since my mother and grandmother’s passing 11 years ago (arguably, the anchors of my family growing up), I’ve watched my immediate and the majority of my extended family disintegrate into some form of chaos or self-destruction. The gravity of that has affected me in several phases, finally culminating now in removing myself entirely. I get a lot of flack for this, but based on my general mood and the stability of my life having done so, I know it’s for the best. I write this not really because I want to share it, but to let someone who finds themselves in a similar situation to know that it’s okay to walk away and not feel guilty.
How to get my head out of my own ass. As my youthful self-assuredness has dialed back, I’ve learned to be more welcoming of contrasting opinions and people into my life without blindly jumping to “you’re wrong!” I’ve learned that while I may not agree up front with something, it’s always worth giving it some space and figuring out why I don’t agree.
Excuse yourself whenever necessary. Instead of “dealing with it later,” whenever I found myself tired or overwhelmed this year, I made a point to be selfish, take a break, and say “I need some room for a bit.”
Happiness comes from energy. I’ve come to understand that happiness is wholly internal. It’s a choice. What you get back is what you put in. You can either be happy with where you are and what you’re doing or not. It’s that simple.
Let yourself be drawn to things. If you want to do something or go somewhere, just do it. Don’t hesitate or try to pre-judge the outcome against past experiences. The only limit on this is the obvious: when you’re moving toward something negative that will harm you or others.
Develop an understanding for your personal relationship with time and how you feel it’s best spent. Your life is your life, your time is your time. Use it how you think is best and in a way that makes you happiest. That can be selfish, selfless, whatever. Just be able to say “I’m happy with the choices I made.”
Embrace a unique perspective. Uniqueness is a positive, not negative attribute. This seems counterintuitive, because being part of the herd, not rocking the boat, etc. feels safe. In reality, when you sublimate into the crowd, you’ve effectively “shown your cards” and remove the element of interest from who you are and what you do. When you (and by extension, your work) are unique, you’re always a point of interest for people to come back to and see “what’s new.”
Understand the difference between price and value. Is that thing really worth the price being asked? Am I really going to get some form of value from this? Also, learning to identify things that seem like they can deliver a ton of value, even if that’s not immediately clear on the surface. For example, my investment in Jon Persson’s help this year stands to have a massive impact on my business and my life in 2020 (not to mention making a new friend which is valuable in a whole other way).
It gets easier but it never gets easy. Great things at any level take sacrifice. Never expect to just “get it” one day and then rest. It goes in cycles. Some periods of your life will be busy and require extra effort while others will not. Some periods of your life will be stressful while others will not. Take it in stride.
My ego was causing me to make poor decisions. More time than I’d like to admit this year was wasted fixing dumb, ill-considered decisions from the past. A note permanently affixed to the wall above my desk: “don’t allow your ego to cause unnecessary mistakes.”
People are like spiders—they’re more afraid of you than you are of them. Being friendly, warm, and approachable tends to work out more than not. Turning the lens away from yourself and not worrying about what others think makes it a lot easier to relate to the world. Once you realize that it’s about them and not you, all the barriers and insecurity drop.
Encourage others. A lot of folks who try hard do so quietly. When you see someone really trying to get something right (whether they are or not), make a point to go pat them on the back and say “I saw that; nice job.” It means the world to them.
I was raised by a narcissistic father. Growing up, I always knew that things were off in my home—not entirely dysfunctional, but noticeably different from how I observed/experienced the families of friends—which I dismissed for a long time. Having been through several negative cycles involving my family (which were usually handled via anger, frustration, or projection in my own life), I made a point to learn more. A brief search for the behaviors I continually experienced in my father led me to NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) and learning about the havoc it can wreak on others. Having come to terms with this, I’ve made an effort to move away from the situation which has removed a lot of the frustration, insecurity, and anger I’ve felt for years. Not fun to realize or accept, but one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Know when and where you’re full of crap. I’d heard the phrase “have strong opinions loosely held” a ways back, but its meaning didn’t really “click” until this year. There were a handful of things that I was utterly convinced of but through thought and experience realized my opinions were out of date or too inflexible. Understanding that it’s not about being right but getting it right made all the difference.
Trust that you’ll get what you want and pursue it without fear. Several times this year I experienced the power of just trusting yourself, doing what’s right, and letting the universe take care of the rest. Time, money, people, and “breaks” all come to you when you need it, but only if you truly believe you’re going to get where you’re headed and do the work necessary.