Last week, there was only a dusting of snow in Vermont, so instead of hitting the mountain to snowboard, I bought a fat bike and hit the trails. I headed out around 1pm to bike in Huntington at the base of the Green Mountains. The ride was awesome, but challenging – there was snow and a sheet of ice so I was constantly shifting between gripping and sliding. More like a controlled slide the whole time. Which is a lot like life – always shifting between a contented state of fulfillment and the tension of wanting more growth… My new bike sailed smoothly over the rocks and roots and ice and snow under the pine trees. I was about seven miles out from the main road when I heard a clicking noise. Turns out this over-sized, off road bike could not handle me! The hub was shot.
So there I was, seven miles into the woods, drenched in sweat, with a busted bike and a long walk back to my truck before the sun set. My mind wandered from a $30 million development meeting the day before, to whether or not I had packed any dry gear (and not my wife’s this time), to reflecting on the past year. Physical repetition like walking, running, biking is such a great way to think. As I trudged back through the woods carrying my bike, I started to think deeply about some of the big lessons I learned in 2015.
Any fool can learn from his own mistakes, but a wise person learns from others. Wisdom is learning from someone who has gone before you and implementing that knowledge into your own life. I encourage you to take what you will from my lessons and make 2016 your best year yet! Here they are in no particular order.
- Never fear the fight. You can’t get rid of fear, but you must learn to dance with it. Fear is a human emotion and a sign of life. If you stop fearing the unknown, then you are no longer afraid to think big and go out and fail. Failure is a part of life. You are going to fail, so you might as well have fun doing it! I know that I will have fear in my life – either from the bear that could run out on to the trail or not contributing enough to my family. But I never let the fear take over. Instead I practice turning that fear into courage every time it arises and the more I practice that, the more I no longer fear the fight. When you can do this – your life is limitless!
- Death is the greatest teacher of all and makes you realize how precious life is. I believe that we are a spiritual being having a temporary physical experience (thanks Gary!) I strive to live each day growing as much as I can spiritually; therefore I want to have as many experiences as possible – positive or negative. Some are hard and they hurt, but those are the experiences that shape us the most. We are arrogant to think we know how much longer we have on this planet. Because I just want as many experiences as possible, failures and successes, I no longer fear the fight of thinking big.
- Doing small activities each day will ultimately lead you to geometric growth. While it doesn’t necessarily feel like you are making progress each day because you’re not seeing any great success, those small activities compounded over time will give you a life others only dream about. But the hard part is in the activities. Not many people have enough disciple, drive, or a strong enough connection to their WHY to endure the grind need to make those small activities into success habits.
- Enjoy the journey. If you have massive goals and dreams, you will never actually arrive; there will never be some magical moment where you instantly feel some sort of fulfillment. The reality is, there is no magic moment. Every day we are either growing or dying, there is no in between. We’re humans. We screw-up and we grow. That is where the magic is. Life is nothing but growth in all areas of your life. When you go for growth (not arriving somewhere) you are always asking yourself how you can improve your life and the life of the people around you. Now that’s magic! Accept your problems and challenges and understand they are a sign of life! The key is to have better and better problems to solve. It’s about how you grow from them and how you train yourself to stay in the moment and enjoy the ride.
- People grow into the conversations you have around them. Lead yourself first and then lead by example. Watch your words and especially your actions. You never know who is watching. I use this principal with my children (4 and 2). I speak to them as mini-adults and use every moment I can to challenge their thought process and instill in them the habit of self-awareness and self-reflection. Sure, they are not always able to respond or fully comprehend what I’m saying, but they are listening and they will grow into those conversations.
- Everything is interconnected. We may not see it or understand it, but I adamantly believe that everything connects in the future. Be kind and treat others with respect as you never know when that person will show up again in your life. You don’t want to miss a critical relationship or connection because you were too busy or important to notice.
- Just breathe. Implementing Transcendental Meditation into my life about three years was one of the most important things I did for my personal and professional growth. I meditate twice a day, every day, for 20 minutes. Constant meditation continues to allow me to see things at a higher level. A higher level than I saw it just a month or a year before. While I’d like to say I’m completely clear of not wanting external motivators, the truth is I still have some and while it’s significantly less than it was 3 years ago, it still shows up at times. But the gap between when the need for external reward comes up and goes away and shows up again continues to widen. When you put a big change into your life, the urge to go back to your previous thinking will continue to show up for a long, long time. But concentrating on daily activities and daily successes gives you a purposeful schedule to eventually eliminate your old thinking. Meditation gives me clarity about what I’m doing and what I should be doing. I don’t often need external motivators anymore; I have a full-on internal drive that takes over and I’m able to appreciate and learn from each moment – the good, bad, or ugly.
- You are not your thoughts. You are the one who sits back and watches your thoughts. We all have crazy thoughts every day (many that we would never want to share with the world), but we don’t act on every one of these thoughts, do we? We aren’t these thoughts. We watch these thoughts come and go. When you can do this easily and effortlessly, that is when you have reached enlightenment. We’re getting pretty deep here, but a great book to read (multiple times) that talks about this is The Untethered Soul.
What were your big lessons from 2015? How will you use what you learned to make the most impact in 2016?