On Regrets & Resolutions
Congratulations, friends... we made it!But does anyone else feel like they need a t-shirt that says: "I survived 2016"?
I'd be lying if I said I ended the year anything but tired. It was during the slow days between Christmas and New Year's Eve when I wasn’t setting alarm clocks and was quantitatively sleeping more than I had in the whole month of December that I realized that I wasn’t the kind of tired I could simply sleep off. I was tired of second guessing, being quiet, feeling helpless, falling short. I was tired of poorly prioritizing, feeling pulled in every direction, not protecting time, and carrying burdens that weren't mine. But I was, and am most tired of making excuses instead of changes.
I’m not historically a big fan of making, much less declaring a long list of New Year’s resolutions, but I am huge on accountability. I learned some big lessons the hard way this year, and they bear sharing - if for no other reason than to publicly hold myself accountable. So without further ado, last year’s regrets, turned this year’s resolutions.
AKA: My to-do list for the year.
Don’t let the little things ruin your day. There are far bigger things to worry about than being stuck in traffic, on hold with Comcast, sandwiched between two unpleasant people on a cross-country flight, the printer being jammed again, or having to go to another meeting that could have been an email. These are small potatoes, people. Save your energy for the mountains, not the molehills.
Know your worth. You were made from love to be loved to spread love and to be awesome. But we all have a bottom line and every starving artist knows that making ends meet doesn’t happen just by being awesome. Figure out your bottom line and work backwards. We all hate talking about money, but asking for what you need is the first best step towards getting there.
Protect yourself from yourself. Self-doubt is the biggest destroyer of potential. Put a lid on the negative self-talk. Chase your dreams, believe in your ideas. You should be a friend to yourself, not an enemy, so quit picking fights and go make something.
Let go of mediocrity. Whatever tendency or insecurity you have that is keeping you from giving it your all, let it go. Don't be a mediocre friend, a mediocre employee, or a mediocre partner. Aspire to greatness, always.
Stop taking things personally. Shit happens. Sometimes it's personal, most often it's not. Insecurity is real, but try your hardest not to let it be your default.
Work smarter, not harder. We could all stand to kick this whole "glorification of busy" bit to the curb. There is nothing glamorous (or productive) about working twenty four hours a day, so don't. If your personal workflow isn't working, re-work it until it does. If your co-working workflow isn’t working, communicate. There is not a perfect work/life balance, at least not in this profession, but there is likely a better one. Finding it will be an ongoing endeavor - keep trying.
Whatever you are, be a good one. Odds are, we are all doing something in our professional lives that we are overqualified for and it's easy to tackle those things with less effort and enthusiasm. Don't. Be the best at whatever the mundane task(s) may be and don't stop until you've found a way to make it fulfilling. Pro-Tip: Treat bookkeeping like Go Fish.
Be an advocate for people and projects you believe in. What you do behind the scenes matters as much or more than anything you do (or get credit for) in public. Invest in projects you believe in. Work with people you believe in. Honor who you've learned from, pay it forward, and have their back every chance you get. They may never know about it, but you will.
Make time. Turn your cell phone off. Get lost on purpose with the people you love. Carefree adventure days can come to a screeching halt when you least expect it. Opt outside, and never be too busy to return a phone call from your family or grab coffee with a friend.
Always be humble and kind. Someday, you’re going to get hired for a job you don’t feel qualified for. Rise to the occasion. Act like you’ve been there before, believe you’ll get there again, and be kind to everyone you meet along the way.
Take care of your body. I often joke about feeling like I got my body out of the recycle bin because I have more issues at twenty-six than most people do at eighty-five, but we are all on borrowed time, so take care of yourself. Walk more, drive less. Wear sunscreen. Stretch. A lot. Pro-Tip: Do this before and after shooting a wedding or suffer the consequences. Breathe deeply. Pay attention to what you eat and to how it makes you feel. Drink more water. Go to bed - sleep is a necessity, not an option.
Never say never. If you had told me this time last year that I would have applied for, accepted, and have completed my first semester as a high school jazz band director, I would have told you that you were three years late to that dream being crushed. But I applied for, accepted, and just completed my first semester as the leader of the Jazz Squad at St. Vincent de Paul High School, and it has been such a wonderful addition to my professional world. Be open to possibilities that you never saw coming. They just might become one of the biggest joys of your life.
Do the work. I am still heartbroken about our presidential election. Less about who is going to be president and more about what this election taught me about "my" America. We have so much work to do, friends. Stay informed. Get involved. Listen. Try to understand. Try to help others understand. We are all in this together. Bridges > Walls.
Let love in. We live in a complicated world. People have a hard time finding each other and when they do, they're too afraid to take the risk. Take the risk. Someday, there will be a reward.
Take the advice, but follow your heart. I’ve been going against the grain since 1990. Lucky for me, I’ve had some pretty stellar mentors and friends to lean into at every critical crossroad, but I’ve also encountered my fair share of registered non-believers on the road less traveled. Last week, I was back home in the mountains of Virginia thinking a lot about who I might have been if I stayed there. If I had given into the advice of the non-believers (who, for the record, always gave sound advice). If I had agreed it was too crazy to move, too unlikely to be successful, too far away to maintain relationships with friends and family, too expensive, too risky, just too hard.
Don't get me wrong - it was so risky, and terribly difficult, and it has been hard to maintain the kind of relationships with friends and family that fulfill both sides, but it has not been impossible. Moving to California when I did, how I did was, by far, the craziest thing I’ve ever done, and jumping ship into a freelance career was a close second, but I wake up every morning a believer in my path, knowing that not following my heart is a regret I’ll never have.
Sure, if I had followed everyone’s advice, I might have an easier life… maybe a few less sleepless nights… but it wouldn’t be this.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who has helped me grow this crazy dream.
Happy 2017. The year of no regrets and no excuses.