Tomorrow is my birthday, and generally I like to look back and reflect on the year that passed. 25 was a big one for me both personally and professionally, and I thought on my last day of this great year, I would share 10 of the most significant things I’ve learned this year (lots of platitudes, not all corny). Thanks to all of my family and friends for teaching me so much this year!
1. People don’t mind a bit of self-promotion: In anticipation of releasing a book, I wasn’t entirely sure how to “market” it to friends and family. I seldom post on Facebook and I don’t love making asks of people. But I had to get over that pretty quickly in order to begin publicizing and once I took the plunge, in good taste, I got over the fear.
2. Only take leaps, not steps: Obvious, I know. But sometimes we lose sight of this in the day-to-day routine. It’s hard to step back and ask “is this really going to propel me forward in the long run?” or to find opportunities in between the cracks. This year, more than ever, finding the hidden leaps has been critical and I hope the momentum can continue. Leaps often lead to better risk/reward situations.
3. You don’t have to know everything to get the job done: The 80/20 rule would say you need 20% of the information to get 80% of the job complete. That’s true in most circumstances. Use it to your advantage to maximize your efficiency and time spent on any one endeavor.
4. Multitask all the time: I’m the kind of person who likes to work on as many projects at once. I know my limits and I recognize when I’ve reached my capacity to output quality work, but I try to stretch that as frequently as possible. I enjoyed writing a book, advising companies, running an employee resource group and planning personal endeavors at the same time (in addition to my job). It always gives you something to do.
5. Meet someone new and completely outside of your comfort zone as often as possible: Dr. Meg Jay, who wrote The Defining Decade, talks about a concept known as “the strength of weak ties.” These ties are usually people you don’t know well, or might even be connected to as a friend of a friend and they are ordinarily the ones who help you see things from an objective perspective. They might be the person to think of you for a job or connect you to someone beneficial to your business. I try to expand my horizons as much and as frequently as possible.
6. Respond to blind reach-outs: they can be fruitful connections and can even turn into great opportunities to connect. I try to talk to everyone, schedule permitting, or at the very least correspond with email. On the flip side, I really struggle with ambiguous asks in reach-outs. So be specific and you will prosper. I try to take my own advice on this since I constantly reach out to people, and am learning about various kinds of response styles.
7. The collective is much more powerful than the individual: I have been used to doing all of my own work and taking care of matters by myself. Learning to delegate and collaborate this year, in particular, has been game-changing. Lean on others who know more than you. Don’t be afraid to delegate to someone who can do a better job and don’t let it affect your ego. Work with your team or partner instead of siloed, especially if you are working toward a common goal.
8. Challenge all assumptions, but let yourself be surprised once in a while: being discerning about minutiae usually gets the job done and gets it done well. Push back on assumptions you are given and be skeptical of other peoples’ suggestions. Letting your guard down every once in a blue moon can sometimes yield really beautiful things. I would also put into this bucket: my skepticism of targeted advertising that has a much more successful effect than I always think it will.
9. Always ask a question: 90% of the things I’ve learned in the last year, and much of my success to date, has been because I ask a lot of questions. You can seem just as intelligent if you ask a question than if you know the answer. Inquisitiveness is a virtue.
Here’s to the other side of this decade…