01 JANUARY 2018
written by Mike
MY LESSONS OF 2017
As another year is coming to an end, I look back at the last 12 months and try to reflect.
The first question that most people ask is usually – why did it go so fast?
There is a theory that, in my opinion, describes changing the perception of time as we grow older.
When you are one year old, another year is 100% of your life. Therefore it seems long. When you are 10 years old, a year is 1/10th of your life – still a significant chunk. When you are 30, a year is only 1/30th, when you finish 50, a year is 1/50th of your life. Your perception changes as 12 months seem to be less significant.
There was a massive difference between 15 and 18 years old. 30 and 33? Not so much.
The conclusion is that with age your perception on every new year will be that it passes faster than previous ones. However, it’s just that – a perception. In reality, we have the same amount of time as everyone else – a child, a teenager, a president, a neighbour. The only decision we make is how do we spend it.
Looking at 2017 there were good and bad moments, there were adjustments, changes that I didn’t ask for but happened nevertheless.
A new business, moving house, family issues had an impact on my well-being and day-to-day life. Some lifted me up, others put me down, but in every situation, I learned a lesson. Not at the very moment, but after the storm, there was usually something to take away.
In my last post of 2017, I wanted to write a few lessons that I think I understood or at least observed. I diary of some sorts and I guess a guide for next year.
Writing down goals is powerful tool
As far as I remember I always planned and scheduled – I like to be organised. However this year I doubled down on it. I hanged a large calendar on my wall where I marked down essential dates and crossed every passing day – it reminded me how fast they pass.
I have a big whiteboard where I wrote goals for 2017; looking at it now I crossed about 90% of what I had there – it makes me feel good, it seems like I did accomplish something. Apart from the above I also have a smaller whiteboard where I write monthly goals as well as organiser where I put daily tasks.
Crossing these out as I work gives a sense of achievement and makes leisure time much more enjoyable – I know that I’ve completed what I had to and I can enjoy the rest of the day stress-free.
Writing down tasks and goals must be the most powerful tool available to all of us. We often don’t remember what we have done a week, a month ago – it may seem that we don’t do that much at all. Right now I can quickly check what I was up to last week or two months ago.
Significant accomplishments are memorable, but it’s the smaller ones that will push you forward.
Change happens over time
Some events can change the trajectory of our lives in a split second. However, most changes happen over time and aren’t that easy to pinpoint. Once you have your goals and daily tasks written down – work away. Only after few months, you can check if you are making any progress.
This applies to every aspect of our lives – health, work, relationships.
We want everything to be ready now, to show the results this minute. However you won’t get fit after one workout session, most don’t get married after one date, and big projects take months, even years to finish.
Understanding the rules of time and growth is crucial. Otherwise, it is so easy to get discouraged, to feel stuck and to abandon the course. Unfortunately, each time you pick something new – you are starting a new cycle. Staying the course will almost always take you to your destination.
Things take more time than intended
Building on a previous paragraph – not only change happens over time but more than likely projects will take more time than you think.
The project you wanted to finish in a week, will take two. Deadlines will need to be adjusted; you will need to work overtime. Setting realistic goals is one thing, understanding that there are unknowns that can throw you off course is another.
When you are on a strict schedule, it is hard to manoeuvre so always plan for unexpected.
Is the deadline on Friday? Write it down for Wednesday so you have two spare days if something happens (and it will). However don’t work thinking that you have spare time, forget about it.
Best case scenario – you finish earlier, and everyone will be happy – you are a hero. Worst case scenario – something was messed up and needs quick change – fortunately, you have spare time to adjust and finish on time – you are a hero.
Plan for the worst, be ready and be prepared.
Actions speak more than intentions
Years ago I read something that changed the way I think about my life and other people.
The quote was ‘people judge others based on their actions, but themselves on their intentions’ which is also similar to a quote from Batman Begins ‘it’s not who are you underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.’
An example would be a road rage. Let’s say you are rushing home because of an unexpected event; you need to get there as soon as possible. Therefore you justify your actions on the road based on your intention – you need to get home, they need you there. However, when you reverse the situation – you are driving calmly and see someone rushing – more than likely you won’t think ‘that’s ok they probably had an urgent call’, but you will judge the person based on their actions – irresponsible driving.
Most people think they are good people because they think so (and often say so), but do they back it up? No one sits in your head, no one can read your mind. The only way you can accomplish a change is by taking action and setting an example with what you do, not with your intentions.
Focus is the name of the game
‘Shiny object syndrome’ affects most of us. We learn about the new thing, new business opportunity, a new adventure that awaits. We are quick to drop everything we do and grab onto the ‘next big thing’. However, only by focusing on one thing and by giving it all you have you will see the results.
The crucial theme to realise is that the most successful people – business owners, athletes, artists, scientists, aren’t different than the rest. They are not lucky, they are not unique but they have something that most of us lack – the focus. The focus to sit down for an uninterrupted period and work on a problem, study the issue, practice the skills. Even from my own experience, I can see that the time when I was jumping from one idea to another didn’t amount to much but when I focused on one thing – it made the difference.
Of course, not everyone wants to do just one thing, and I’m all about experimenting, however, when you choose to start a new hobby, business or project – don’t get distracted and focus on it. Once you are happy with what you established, start something else.
You can’t accomplish much by yourself
There is a time when we think we don’t need anybody’s help; we can do all ourselves, we are afraid someone can mess up our work. Fortunately, I learned a few years ago that only as a team you could succeed, the need to delegate and supervise.
In 2017 I cemented the belief that without the team you can’t go far. Everything in nature is connected, relationships are the basis for growth. Brainstorming, delegation, motivation are all crucial elements of every job. Starting anything is difficult but doing it on your own is much harder. There is a science behind research on what kills people the most, and it’s loneliness. Here is the video:
Things rarely turn out as intended
Planning and scheduling are vital however I also learned that more than often things don’t stick to the plan. That’s why, in my opinion, preparation is the right way to have a framework but being stubborn or too rigid will hurt the plans. Darwin’s theory says, in nature the fittest survive, and it doesn’t mean the strongest or fit as in healthy. It describes that the ones who know how to adjust to changing the environment, who know how to pivot.
For me, it’s important to know my goals and targets, but I don’t stress how I will get there.
Relationships need work
This year I witnessed a few breakups, parents divorce and arguments between friends. Every time something like that happens my mind goes back to Clayton Christensen’s speech about relationships and work.
We all understand that to be promoted, to earn more money, to get a better job we need to work hard. However, we don’t apply same rules to relationships. We think that when it comes to our partners, things will just work out somehow.
Unfortunately in a year, five or thirty it can all fall apart.
Communication is the key. Understanding that we need to work on relationships as much as on our projects and hobbies is crucial. It’s easy to take things for granted, especially when you are in an established relationship but all can break in a second if we are not careful.
Think about putting as much effort in relationships as you put in your work and the results will show.
Everyday habits make all the difference
Habits can be good or bad. Think about your average day, from the minute you get up to the moment you go back to sleep. What are your everyday habits, actions that you take without thinking? Is it exercising? Smoking? Reading? Gaming?
What do you gain from these? Can you improve or replace the bad ones?
I learned that in life you rarely have one event that changes it all and it’s about small things that you do every day consistently.
I’m not talking about being productive all the time, I read, watch Netflix, waste time on the internet. However, the minute I realise the habit is harmful I cut it out. Watching Netflix or gaming may be your favourite thing to do in the evening, to relax after work. However, if you do it all day every day, then it turns into a bad habit.
Be transparent and honest, write down every action you take for a day or two and analyse if you can improve or get rid of something that drags you down. Healthy habit will change your life in the long run, for the better.
Situation can radically change within few months
There are days and moments when we can’t see the exit when all goes wrong at the same time. For me what helps in that kind of moments is repeating to myself ‘NOW’ – it is happening now, I don’t have money now, I’m ill now, the project is going badly now.
What I mean by that is, I understand that current situation can and will change, often 180 degrees.
Of course, it won’t change itself, you still need to take action but looking at every major event from the past – I realise it was just that – an event that passed. Sooner or later the anger will pass, resentment will go away, new job and opportunities will appear – as long as you let them.
Don’t get comfortable or preliminary happy
Following the last point – it works both ways. What comes up must eventually come down. Every time I got a bit too comfortable or was too confident, I got served a harsh lesson.
Predicting your future based on past events won’t always work. Working harder to get to the top is fine, but staying there is much harder. The minute you get too cosy in your job, your business, your relationship that’s when the unexpected happens. I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate or enjoy the successes; rewards are what drive most people. However, each time I celebrated too early – I got slapped.
Until you know that’s it’s a done deal – stay on your toes.
Being content is my desirable state
Emotions define us, however, because of them most problems arise. What I learned, after years of emotional imbalance, that content is my desirable state.
Being content with life, death, work, relationships, my surroundings is my key. To not regret but also not think about it too much. To be able to say, that it didn’t work out as intended but I tried my best, and I’m content with the result.
To get rid of extreme emotional states, to live my life calmly and stoically. To understand that my life doesn’t mean anything and therefore I’m free to live it the way I want; that soon I will be gone, and everything I created will be forgotten.
To be content with that is to be satisfied with nature and natural cycles of life.
For some people, it sounds sad and bleak. For me, it is the most liberating thing that happened.
Lashing out as dangerous catharsis
Even though I know my desirable state, and want to be content with my life all the time – I can’t cheat human nature. I am emotional as most people and more than often, emotions win. From time to time there is a situation, an event that needs an emotional response. To get it all out, to clear your head, to balance the state. It can be a death of a close one; it can be a divorce of your parents, it can be a breakup or business going bad.
I learned that emotional response won’t fix the problem but can often fix what is inside. No matter how much meditation, exercising or yoga I do – there is a time when shouting helps, when arguments are needed, when crying is all we can do.
It’s ok. Last time I shouted at my parents, I wasn’t proud of it, but I needed it. I know it didn’t fix anything and I did apologise the next day. It wasn’t for them; it was for me – either release the bottling emotions or risk my sanity.
I wouldn’t recommend doing that in 99.9% of situations, but if something like that happens, it’s okay. We are only human, and no one is perfect.
The past gets forgotten
A couple of things had me thinking about how I live my life. One was a quote that said something along the lines ‘those who live in the past live a depressed life, who live in the future life a life of anxiety’ meaning, that it’s the only present moment that matters. The other reflection was when I looked at some old photos – I could hardly remember what happened 5, ten years ago. It’s all foggy; some moments stuck but the rest is blurry.
To live a good life is to live in the present.
It got me thinking – would I rather live a shorter life my full of joy? Or long life, but the last years would be dreadful?
Imagine having a remarkable life – 80 years for example. But last ten would be lonely and sad. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the last ten years would overshadow the whole life like the last part of great movie or spectacle can ruin the entire experience.
The past gets forgotten, in your life as well as in history, therefore we need to make sure that present moment counts. Be content with now, and the future and the past will get in line.
Age is just a number (or is it?)
I turned 30 this year, and if someone says that age is just a number, they are both lying and telling the truth. It is a number; however, in modern society, it is also a milestone, a point of no return. Does it mean that you have to start playing by some rules? Not at all. I still don’t know what I want to do, or why I’m even here, and that’s fine – I probably won’t ever figure it out.
However, the number can be a downfall for a lot of people. I’ve seen it in myself, I’ve seen it in my friends. There are loads of articles about midlife crises, but identity crisis around 30 is a real thing too.
Some have established families and jobs; others are just starting out. When I was a kid I thought 30 was old – now it seems like it’s only a beginning.
It is an essential milestone because it shows that nothing will change unless you want it to change but also how fast time passes. I know that I can be 40 in a blink and it’s all up to me.
Waiting for something to happen never works and at 30 you know how some things work. The question is – what will you do about it?
I think that’s it. There were many other lessons I learned in 2017. Was it a good year? It depends. I learned a lot, so I can say it was good. I hope I will learn even more in 2018. I reckon that if I don’t forget that most things don’t matter, it will be ok.
This year ends on a sour note, with parents divorce and family in distress.
However, what goes down, must eventually come up and a bitter end often means a good start of something new.
See you in the New Year.
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