FIVE LESSONS FROM 2019
I was chatting to some friends earlier this week, talking about the highlights of 2019 and our respective plans for 2020. It has been an extraordinary year. From the creation of Actually to the delivery of my first ever online training course; from my stay on Necker Island in March to the chance I was given to meet some of the inmates of a maximum security prison in California in September; from a visit to Venice to a trip home to see my family in Jersey: every month has brought something new, a new experience, a new opportunity, a new challenge.
So, as this year draws to a close, I am looking back to find the lessons. Here are five that I have identified so far. I hope they are as useful to you as they have been to me.
SAY YES TO OPPORTUNITY
At the beginning of 2019 I was invited to a Leadership Retreat on Necker Island. My great friend and mentor, Dr Joanna Martin, had swung it for me and I don’t mind admitting, I was nervous. The previous year’s attendees had included George and Amal Clooney and the event was to be hosted by Richard Branson…I was filled with imposter syndrome.
As I considered that invitation, I tried desperately to drown out a constant chorus of negativity courtesy of Doris, my voluble inner critic, who was firmly of the view that I was ‘not good enough’ to be a part of such an elite gathering. But in spite of her, I said ‘yes’. And I cannot adequately explain how pleased I am that I did. I was moved and inspired and forced to ‘uplevel’ my thinking and my plans. Actually was created as a result of that invitation. My life-changing visit to Kern Prison and my involvement with Emily Procter’s amazing prisoner education programme, The Ground, came about because of that trip. I met some hugely inspiring entrepreneurs who invited me into an amazing Mastermind. And I made new friends from across the world that I hope will be a part of my life forever.
I said yes to that invitation and inspiration, opportunity and joy were the result.
BUT SAY NO TO OVERWHELM
As 2019 comes to an end I am tired. The past few weeks have been exhausting and involved a lot of driving – to London, to Birmingham and to Stratford Upon Avon – plus a breakdown on the A2 just to top it all off! And there is more to come before the year is done.
I am a natural enthusiast. I have always had a tendency to be a workaholic. And I find it hard to say no to things that I am interested in or to people that I care about. Saying ‘no’ doesn’t come easily to me.
So, this is a lesson I am still learning. But I am learning. At the end of a very busy few weeks, I took off for a long weekend of rest and replenishment in the sunshine in Spain.
And I am making plans for next year to mitigate my tendency to overdo it. In 2020 I will be taking the whole of February and the whole of August off. My care and curiosity months will be filled with rest, replenishment and recreation. And in the rest of the year, I will be practicing my ‘No’.
Say it with me: ‘No’.
YOUR EXPERIENCE OF LIFE IS YOUR CHOICE
This has been a major learning for me in 2019 and it’s a challenging one. There are things that happen in your life that you don’t consciously choose. My life is far from perfect and I’m pretty sure that yours has some challenges in it too. Am I right? But you CAN choose how you experience these events and therefore how you experience your life as a whole.
I believe in optimism, the possibility of change and gratitude. And so I make these choices:
- I choose to end every day with a focus on what I am grateful for
- I choose to practice kindness, compassion and tolerance to myself as well as others
- I choose to regard every experience as an opportunity and to look for the lesson or the gift within it
- I choose to believe in the depths of my being that change is always possible
In the words of one of the prisoners I met in the Kern Valley prison: ‘I am at a 10 because I choose to be’. And these choices help me to experience my life as one that is filled with inspiration, joy and the potential for growth.
THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING YOU DON’T KNOW
Starting Actually has been a steep learning curve. It still is and I expect it will continue to be!
I have learnt a lot more about email marketing; online course delivery; and social media strategy for small businesses.
I’ve learnt about my business. I thought I knew what I wanted to do with Actually but it has evolved and morphed over the course of this year. I have tried out new things and new ideas and had feedback from my clients and potential clients about what they like, want and need.
I’ve learnt about myself. I’ve been challenged and stretched and found my ‘learning edge’. I’ve been sick to my stomach with nerves trying something new – something I’ve not experienced in a long time – and elated to the point of feeling almost drunk!
I’d started a successful business before I launched Actually. I’d worked in communications and PR for 25 years and had been delivering training for most of that time. And yet, I am still learning every day. And that’s one of the many reasons I love what I do.
Never stop learning.
There’s always something you don’t know.
One of my core values is generosity. It is so important to me in my personal life that I find it very difficult to have any kind of relationship with people who are the opposite. And it is also important to me in my business which is why generosity is one of the guiding principles of Actually.
Acting in accordance with that guiding principle has not always been easy in 2019. Actually is in soft launch phase. I am trialling content; testing ideas; dipping my toe in the water of online training. It has not been a big revenue year and many people have advised me to cut costs, increase my prices and to scale back on the content I am giving away.
But for me, there is no point in having a ‘guiding principle’ if, when things get tough, you abandon it. And so I have continued to offer discounts on my course fees to those people brave enough to be part of my trial cohorts. I have continued to offer good rates for my advisory work to those who were keen to work with me as I tested out my approach.
And as I look back on this year – at the support I have had, the testimonials I have been given, the referrals people have made and the enormous amount of goodwill that Actually has attracted, I know I was right.
A BONUS LESSON: BRING ALL OF YOU
There is one more thing I’ve learnt this year. For decades I focussed exclusively on my career. I strived for professional success and kept my spiritual and personal development in a box to be opened only on the rare occassions that I wasn’t working. I hid away those parts of me that I was scared didn’t ‘fit’ with my ‘successful business woman’ persona; that I was concerned would be unacceptable in the corporate circles that I moved in. And I ignored my intuition, my need for ritual, my body’s cries for nurturing and self-care.
After my last round of burn-out – and it will be the LAST – I finally learnt my lesson. I made a different choice. I created a different kind of business. I chose a different group of friends, supporters, colleagues…people who understood the necessity of integrating the practical and the spiritual sides of myself.
Ultimately, the greatest lesson of 2019 has been that to live and work in authentic alignment with who I truly am is what unleashes true success and joy.
Bring all of you.
As you head into 2020, take some time to reflect on what you’ve learnt this year and allow it to inform – but not dictate – how you approach the year ahead. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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