Another year has come and gone and a new year is upon us. I won’t lie, 2012 was not a good year for me, financially, but I made it through it. I did learn a lot during the last year though. Here are nineteen of the most valuable things that I learned.
Lesson 1. Failure is not a bad thing
We are taught from an early age that failure is a bad thing. That when you finish school, try to get a safe job somewhere and don’t take any chances. This year I failed in a lot of things, but at the end I felt like a winner. Battered and bruised, I still had my health, my family and an even stronger will to keep going.
Lesson 2. You can change your mindset
If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you that my mantra was “that’s just the way I am,” whenever she would complain about my habits. I don’t say that anymore (although I almost do sometimes). This was one of the most critical things I learned – that your beliefs, or mindset, can be self-limiting. A fixed mindset belief is one where you believe that your nature is unchanging, but that is untrue. You can change, and that belief is the growth mindset. I’ve touched on mindset in an earlier article, and will talk about it more in another article.
Lesson 3. Change is easy… Sustaining change is hard
Making changes is easy, but keeping that change going is not. Even a small obstacle can derail the entire plan. I started studying, and reading early, but work got in the way. Luckily my exercise routine was pretty successful, until exams came along in December and has plummeted to zero. Now I have to get started once again.
Back to Lesson 1, failure is not a bad thing, as long as you keep trying to make those changes that are necessary. Don’t be afraid to learn from the mistakes and try a different approach to making those changes.
Lesson 4. There are people out there who are willing to help you succeed
I was surprised how many people are willing to meet and talk with you for the sole purpose of helping you succeed, even people you have never met before then. I also realised how great my customers are to take time to give me advice when I ask for it and help me up when I stumble.
Lesson 5. Getting a business coach is one of the best investments you can make
As business was not going so well I reached out to someone to help me that was one of the best investments that I could have made. My coach helped me see myself in a different way and got me to analyse my thinking and assumptions. I know that I’m a tough nut to crack and for sure a work in progress, but I’ve reached a lot further if not for her. You can find her through her website.
Lesson 6. Find worth in yourself
Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. For me, worth was something I was trying to find from external means by being involved with groups to being obsessive with branding. However, what I failed to realise then was that my self-worth is all that mattered. I spent a great deal of time growing my self-worth last year, and still doing it. It’s something that we should all take time to reflect upon.
Lesson 7. Learn mindfulness and meditation
Whenever I talk to people about meditation and mindfulness I feel like a hippy, but I wouldn’t talk about it if I didn’t find incredible value from it. Mindfulness is being in touch with and aware of the present moment. This helps focus your attention and allow you to understand yourself and your actions. To achieve great changes in yourself involves some measure of understanding yourself and your feelings, and mindfulness meditation helps you get there.
Lesson 8. Audio books are almost as good as reading
I used to eschew audio books thinking that they were just not as good as books. I was right, they are not as good as books, but they are better than not reading them at all. Audio books have been a boon to me as I listen to them in the car, while exercising or while doing housework. They’ve allowed me to learn a great deal at times when I’m doing menial tasks that don’t require a lot of attention.
Lesson 9. Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean that you’ll be successful at it
I’ve very good at IT networking and security, and all my current customers know that, however, just that skill was not enough to pull in other customers who do not know me. It’s easy to get overconfident until reality steps in and crushes your pre-suppositions. Which brings me to my next lesson…
Lesson 10. Don’t underestimate the need for sales and marketing skills.
When starting your business, if you have only technical know-how, understand that you will have to spend a lot of time learning about sales and marketing, and also making a lot of mistakes. I’m still making mistakes, but luckily I’m also learning from it. I’ll never downplay the role that sales play anymore in winning customers.
Lesson 11. Working and going to school is really hard to do.
I have a lot of respect to those people who work and go to school; it’s really hard work. Attending classes and tutorial sessions, meeting for group projects and studying for exams take up a lot of time and effort. I think it’s unfortunate that the University here is not more understanding of evening students and set classes and tutorial sessions to minimise travel time and days spent at the University.
Lesson 12. Getting as education is much easier when you don’t think your life depends on it
Spending time at the University and speaking to many of the undergraduate students, I realise that I’ve forgotten how I felt back when I did my undergraduate degree. The stress and pressure to succeed. The worries of what the future holds. I’m doing my degree because I want to and not because I need to, and I feel much more at ease, even if I fail a course or two (even the whole thing). I still want to succeed, but it’s no life or death situation. I’ve already led a very successful life and this does not define me.
Lesson 13. Not because everyone says you must do something, mean that you must do it
Everyone has some advice for you when you have your own business. One thing that I’ve constantly been told is that I need to network, go to bars where people frequent and socialise, or when those business associations have get-togethers to attend. But I’m an introvert and I’ve never felt comfortable in those situations. As a result, I would spend the time just looking around probably talking to a few people that I knew but never getting the result that I expected.
Now don’t get me wrong, you do need to network, but just not the way that people say you have to. I’ve found success networking in places that I’m comfortable such as conferences or seminars. I believe that you can be just as successful doing the things that are comfortable for you. And thus…
Lesson 14. Be true to yourself
Don’t try to do what you think you should do, or what others say you should do. Do what you want to do and what feels right. I’ve always had these pre-conceptions of what a successful person needs to do, but I don’t feel comfortable doing all those things. I prefer to be myself and gain success my way.
Lesson 15. If you join an association, don’t stay because you feel that you’ve made a commitment
I joined a bunch of associations in the hope of finding more worth, but I found myself being stretched beyond my capacity, often for causes that I didn’t believe it. At the end I opted to drop them all. If you stay in a group and are not committed then you are feeling obligated. You are only obligated to yourself and by staying you are not helping yourself or the group. It’s best you leave.
Lesson 16. Don’t be afraid to try new things, or new ways of doing things
It’s scary to try something new, but by trying something new you may discover things about yourself that you never knew existed. If you don’t like what you see then you can always go back to the old way of doing things, but until you try you will never know what’s possible.
Lesson 17. Start a journal
Write down your thoughts, plans, and good things that have happened to you, including the things that you have learned. I found great solace in doing this, and often I read the things I wrote before and find great insights in those thoughts, even if the thought was just a few days ago.
Lesson 18. Take time to understand yourself
This goes back to mindfulness meditation, but also in taking time to truly understand yourself. Do some of those psychological tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI) or the Enneagram Test to understand your personality and nature. Careful to not allow this to take you to the fixed mindset that I referred you to later, but use it to understand those areas that my prove to be most challenging that you may need to put some effort into.
For example, I need to put effort in relating to others emotionally as I am by nature not an emotional person; those tasks physically drain me, but I know that the effort would be worth it. I admit that I have a lot of work to do.
Lesson 19. Sometimes plans change, and sometimes plans are worth changing
This lesson I learned on the last day of the year. The family and I spent the night at the beach with my best friend and had the option of staying the next night and breaking the new year there instead of home. I had already planned the old year’s night of grilling some steaks and spending time at home, so I decided to leave. The night was great with my family, but I also know that I could have been better if I had my family and friends together, especially since I had not spent time with this friend for a while.
Once I make plans I don’t like to break them. But if I had broken them this time, it could have been well worth it.
So there it is, some of the greatest lessons that I learned for the past year. I hope that it helps you learn something as well.
Here’s to a great year ahead. May all your hard work and efforts pay off!