At the end of every “Year in Review” mega-post, I compile a list of all the major Life Lessons I’ve learned that year. A couple years ago, I started the tradition of separating this into a separate post from the main 2022 Year In Review post.
In compiling these lessons, I noticed they fell into 3 major categories. I have grouped them accordingly:
- Leadership & Relationships
- Success & Happiness
- Health & Well-Being
Feel free to skip to the sections most interesting or relevant to you. Or just go through them all if you’re feeling in the mood.
Leadership & Relationships
Venting & gossip is extremely toxic for any group – One lesson learned this year is how detrimental gossip, trash-talking, and venting are to a team’s culture. It kills the trust and safety within an organization and reduces inclusiveness. Some think it makes people grow closer to by speaking poorly about someone else, but it actually makes all parties involved look bad. The person talking about someone behind their back looks bad, the person listening to it is encouraging and enabling this behavior, and others who observe this now trust the group less because of the hostile environment. Nobody feels safe to speak their mind because of fear that someone is going to talk bad about them and their opinions behind their back. I learned that once we level set the expectation that negative interactions like these are not welcomed on the team, the whole team dynamic becomes drastically healthier.
When someone is talking bad about your friend, stand up to that person – I did this once or twice last year and it felt good. Mostly because it took a lot of courage to go against the “comfortable” route which was to either ignore it, play along externally but disagree internally, or simply try to change the subject. In this instance, this person crossed the line and was dragging my friend (who wasn’t there) in front of a group of 4-5 mutual friends. This person’s arguments held no weight as they were not only emotionally charged and exaggerated, but were factually inaccurate as I knew the facts of the situation from previous evidence. Even though I chose the path of confrontation, I felt good about setting a precedence that bad-mouthing a friend in a group setting, especially in front of me, was not acceptable. And this goes along with the lesson that stronger boundaries improve relationships.
Between friends, it’s not about equivalent exchange/reciprocation when you want to express love – This is something I’ve noticed that more than half of my friends (usually the younger ones) don’t understand yet. It’s also something I learned more recently. Essentially, when a friend wants to be nice and generous to you by either giving you something or doing something for you out of the goodness in their heart, don’t feel like you need to reciprocate the favor immediately. Sometimes, people deny another person’s generosity because they don’t think they can reciprocate it, which ruins the intent of the loving act by making it all about themselves. The giving of a gift isn’t about you (the receiver), it’s about the giver expressing how much you and your relationship mean to them. We need to learn how to accept these kind acts graciously, and without feeling like we don’t deserve them or need to reciprocate them immediately. Friendship isn’t about giving 1 for 1. It is about both sides depositing into the goodwill account of the relationship, which deepens your bond over time.
First, have compassion and listen to understand. Once they feel understood, you can give your perspective and advice if they ask – I’ve applied this lesson many times during this year as I’ve had to deal with conflict as a leader, friend, and a trusted confidante. When someone is dealing with a difficult situation, our first instinct is to immediately give our advice to try and solve it. However, that method is rarely effective. What is infinitely more effective is to first listen with compassion and help them feel heard. Once they feel understood, they’ll be more receptive to your advice and open-minded to try something different.
Leading with values to guide your actions – One of the best lessons I’ve learned while being on LSHIP is the importance of first establishing our values before we decide on courses of action. Once we know what’s important to us, those values will guide our actions when we come across a problem and we’re not sure what to do. Doing so also will ensure that your organization will attract the right people and repel the wrong people. It’s a mistake to take people into an organization if the leadership doesn’t have a clear alignment on what the organization values. But once you know what you value, it becomes easier to filter the right people into the group.
No anonymous surveys – I learned from the book Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord that “anonymous feedback doesn’t make people more truthful” and I wholeheartedly agree. Truthful people who want to voice their opinions will. But moreover, giving the option to be anonymous gives mixed signals. It gives the impression that people shouldn’t feel safe to voice their opinions because to do so would be risky. I didn’t want this kind of culture with my team, so I pushed for non-anonymous surveys in the spirit of transparency, openness, and safety. To show them that feedback will never result in retaliation and that we care about what people have to say. I wanted us to promote the culture of having face-to-face, frank, and honest discussions with each other, and not hiding behind anonymity to feel safe enough to voice concerns.
Success & Happiness
Always have high standards for yourself, but don’t put unrealistic expectations and standards on your friends – This lesson is a reminder to myself. While I hold myself to high standards in terms of disciplined habits, the most toxic thing you can do is impose those standards of excellence and discipline on others. It never works. While you can encourage others to be their best selves, you cannot force discipline or goals on someone else. They have to decide their own goals or else they’ll never commit to them. The best we can do is love and accept them where they are, and support them when they do set a goal for themselves.
Be generous to your future self and give them the gift of having something done – This essentially means don’t procrastinate. When you get the tedious things done and out of the way, it’s a means of being kind to your future self. This is also why developing healthy habits like sleeping well, eating healthy, and exercising are actually acts of kindness to your future self. It takes self-love and self-care to a different level. At the very least, it is another way to look at it. Personally, this has motivated me a lot when it comes to menial tasks. It puts things into perspective and pushes me to get things done rather than letting them sit in my mental “inventory” and “to-do list.” This has relieved so much stress for my future self and makes me continuously grateful to my past self.
Keep your expectations for others’ behavior in check – The biggest cause of unhappiness for me this year has revolved around my expecting people to act the way I act and feel the way I feel. This seems to be an ongoing and difficult lesson for me, but I think many people can relate. When I am able to let go of expectations, I’m so much happier in my relationships. Easier said than done, but it’s a worthy endeavor.
If you want to be the best in your niche, create the niche – This is something I learned from a couple of my favorite authors Tim Ferriss and Ramit Sethi. To become more valuable/marketable/in demand, you have to be (one of) the best in the space you occupy. But the most effective way to do that is to find the intersection of where your strengths and talents lie, so then you’ll naturally be one of the best at that combination of things.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease – I’ve experienced this a lot firsthand this year, especially when it came to having to deal with customer service. I’ve found myself on the end where I was slighted as a customer, and the subsequent follow-up with customer service made the experience even worse. Fortunately, having detailed records have paid off in my subsequent follow-ups, with the ROI genuinely being good for the amount of time I had to spend resolving my own problem. But it was a lesson I’ve learned to not just “let things go” when a company messes up when they shouldn’t have. And this is even more important when their customer service makes things worse. I learned from my experience working with Attorneys long ago that sometimes you need to be ready to fight. Not only on principle but because sometimes these organizations need accountability to improve their process.
Health & Well-Being
Wear your mask and don’t readily trust others when they say they’re fine – I got COVID at the very beginning of the year (like mid-Janurary) and again at the very end of the year like Dec 30th. And both times, I should have trusted my intuition and worn my mask when the people I got it from said “I feel fine” even though they expressed later that they weren’t necessarily 100% and were exposed recently. I also got the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in late October from someone on my team, but my symptoms/coughing lasted 4-6 weeks, which was probably the most annoying sickness I had of them all. I think these experiences have conditioned me to be more cautious and wear my mask more often than not, especially in smaller, enclosed spaces.
Take care of your body (physically, emotionally, mentally). Our bodies are less resilient as we get older, so we have to be more proactive with self-care – The health issues and physical pain I’ve had this past year were a hard reminder to myself to take care of my body. I personally think I take care of myself better than most people, or at least on average compared to my peers. But this was a humbling reminder that I can always do better. No amount of money or success can replace our health and energy, so this should always be our top priority if we want to live an amazing and fruitful life.
Thank you 2022 for all the Lessons Learned
Like every year, this one had its ups and down. But each difficulty we overcome is an opportunity to grow better for the challenges ahead. I’m grateful for the lessons and excited to become even wiser by next year.