As an agency, we spend a lot of time forecasting the future, trying to plan for changes in algorithms and social media platforms. As you can imagine, that’s kind of futile because things change so quickly. What we really need to do each year, as an agency and also as individuals, is to take some quality time reflecting on the year that was.
I’m not one to dwell on the past and go over in my head everything I did wrong, but if we don’t focus on what we didn’t do well, how can we improve in the future? And, sometimes reiterating what we DID do well is just as important, and validating. Below is a list of my lessons learned this year – some seem obvious. To those points I say sometimes we have to learn lessons more than once (sometimes more than 10 times) before we actually learn from them. Some of this is business-related, some is not:
- Remember to work ON the business and not IN the business. I feel like this one gets repeated in my head – a lot – but it bears repeating – again – because it clearly was my biggest lesson this year (again). I’ve alluded to this in a couple of posts this year but here’s the bottomline of things I need to caution my own brain about: remember I have an amazing team and I need to delegate to them even if the project looks really fun and I really want to do it. If I’m doing the day-to-day on one client (even if I’m loving what I’m doing) then I’m not giving attention where it needs to go: business development and growth. In 2022 I was too invested in one client and when I parted ways with that client, I found myself in a place of needing to refocus.
- Learn when to speak up versus when to shut up. For the first time in a long time, I’m ending this year not on any boards or committees. And you know what? I’m not bothered by it at all. If you know me personally, then it won’t surprise you that I’m pretty outspoken when something affects either my children or an organization I care about. I donated a decade to each organization in which I’ve held a leadership position. When I saw something that could affect the organization from a PR standpoint, or that left a group of people inside the organization feeling unheard, or when I felt the administration was making a bad choice, you can bet I stood up and spoke up. And… well.. I pretty much outwore my welcome. I’ve basically been labeled a persona non grata at this point, meaning, if I have an issue with the school (where I was formerly a member of the board), I’m better off getting someone else to speak up. Here’s what I’ve learned from this experience: always give respect to the people who gave their time. If you work for an organization with a board, you may be happy to see some terms end. But still, be kind and respectful to those individuals knowing they gave their all. But also I’ve learned to recognize when my own mental health is suffering. Had my term on the most-recent board been longer, I’d have quit at the end of the term anyway. Being in a position where I feel small and “unlistened to” (I made up that phrase) is no longer worth my time and if they want to make bad decisions, that’s on them and no longer on me. Repeat: no longer on me.
- Continue to trust you’ve taught them well and they are capable. This one is about my kids. As I mentioned above, I will speak up when something affects my children. BUT… I’m also the first to back off when it’s something they can – and should – handle themselves. I now have a sophomore in high school and a freshman in college. The amount of commentary on the COLLEGE Facebook group about things parents plan to handle on their child’s behalf astounds me. Parents need to remember we figured all of this out just fine back in the ’80s and ’90s when we went to college – and we did it without the internet. Our kids are resourceful, resilient and able. And if they aren’t… then maybe they weren’t ready to go to college in the first place. If the dryers in the dorm aren’t drying it is not on the parent to call the housing office. Instead, make a suggestion to your child to figure out how to put in a maintenance request. If your child has an early-morning Saturday exam and the dining hall isn’t open at that time, don’t call the dining office. For the love, let your kid (who by October should know what time dining halls open) figure out they need to plan ahead and get a granola bar the day before – or let them suffer the consequences and be hungry and learn from it. These are real examples I’ve seen on the group and it would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. We cannot raise a generation of people who need their parents to do everything for them – who on earth would want to hire those people? I was told when my oldest was in second grade to back off the homework help, and I did. And you know who benefited? My kids… but also me.
- Continue putting health first. Again, anyone who knows me personally (or, let’s face it, online) knows I’m obsessed with my Peloton community. We invested in these machines in August of 2019 and I quickly learned it was more than a workout, it’s a team of people I care about. I haven’t missed a day since October of 2020 (that was an accident, but it was a great day and I don’t regret it). In 2022, I got over the 20,000-minute mountain and I’m still going. I set a goal, I made a plan, and I feel great. Before you judge that I overdo it, know that some days are just stretching and some are just meditations. But it’s all a focus on my health. Putting my health – physical and mental – above all else this year worked for me. And that will continue.
- Take it one day at a time. Look, I’m a planner. I like to have my calendar scheduled out and know I have things appropriately planned. But sometimes, we have to slow down, take a deep breath, and just live in the moment. This has been something I’ve been working on since the Pandemic started. We just don’t know when we’re going to have to shift to Plan B. I’ve always hated Plan B. But since 2020, I feel like we are always living just on the verge of Plan B. So sometimes we have to accept our own shortcomings and we have to not work ahead and we have to just close the computer, sit on the couch and grab a book or even just scroll through nonsense on TikTok. It’s good to take breaks. It’s healthy. I took a full two weeks off this past summer to travel and you know what? I didn’t miss a thing, everything was handled and I came back rested and refreshed.
- I’m not apologizing. Hold it, don’t assume I won’t apologize when I’m in the wrong. That’s still something I do pretty regularly. Just this morning I apologized to my son for us being out of protein pancakes (he can’t drive alone yet so he depends on me to get his food and he’s pretty particular about what he eats so I feel badly when he doesn’t have the proper fuel). Apology behind me, I stopped at Kroger this morning. But here’s where I’m not apologizing anymore: I’m not starting sentences with “I’m sorry but…” I recently gave a report to a client who didn’t like what I had to say. I almost said “I’m sorry you feel that way but I stand by my analysis of your account.” Instead I said “I stand by my analysis of your account.” Do you see the difference? One feels small and one feels empowered. And me? I’m small enough, physically, so empowerment it is.
Anything here you relate to? What’s on your list of lessons learned?