It’s that slow and steady haul right before the first of the year where Father Time swoops in and swallows yet another year. His beard a lick longer, his scythe a bit sharper, his hourglass tipping with that final and futile droplet of sand. The old relinquishes its title to the new. And that finishing sun sets its last declining ray…as we all fade against the backdrop of a year less forgotten.
F*@K!! That’s depressing!!
Cheer up, yo! It’s a new dawn and time for my year-end review—Reflection of Two Thousand Sixteen—where I try to capture lessons learned about life, business, tech, and all that goodie good stuff! For the 3rd year running, here is my reflection of this particular year—2016.
Quick Reflection of Twenty-Sixteen
Being somewhat introspective and also extrospective (pretty sure that’s a word), I realize this year didn’t go well for a lot of people. There were definitely some ups-and-downs, rights-and-lefts, holy-shits and WTF’s, goddams and oh-no’s, haha’s, hehe’s and Aha’s. Just a mangled mesh of mashable moments…ya know?
We lost some cool people like Prince, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman. But I think it’s safe to say we probably gained some cool people too. America has a new president, and for all of you who don’t know my political views, I can’t say I’m jumping up and down with excitement about this one. But, there might be some light at the end of the tunnel…then again, there might not. Brexit happened. Yup…that happened. Not much to say there except I feel like this has been year of exclusion and inclusion.
Exclusion. The word by itself is not negative, nor is it positive. But when you couple it with algorithms and social feeds, it can be downright scary. Inclusion. The word by itself doesn’t reflect good or bad. It’s only when you attach another filter or variable to it that these words start to take shape.
Context is Everything
If there’s only one lesson I want you to learn that spans life, business, and tech, it’s this… context shapes everything. Whatever that thing may be.
There’s been a big push in the tech space for context aware design. Mobile phones have had context-aware computing for a few years now. Smartphones can sort of adapt to their environments and act accordingly. Humans have built context-aware computing because we know it’s important.
Context doesn’t only shape everything, it is everything. Without it, we couldn’t communicate with each other, we couldn’t sense things. So be aware of it. It’s not that hard to do. Just listen to yourself, your environment, and those around you…and act accordingly. Please.
Breaking from tradition with my prior years’ reflections, I’m lumping both business and life lessons together. Usually I break them out into two separate categories, but I feel this year has been a roller coaster of lessons that can be equally applied to both life and business.
- TALK TO STRANGERS:
- I listened to an awesome TED Talk about talking to strangers. Disrupt peoples’ lives (in a positive way) and your life might be disrupted too…again, in a positive way! That cute girl that works at the local pet store – say hi! That old man that you sit next to at the bus stop – give him a high-five. That guy at the gym that smiles as you walk by, ask him what he does for a living. The older we get, the less people we interact with – and that just sucks! So go talk to people you don’t know, and maybe you’ll find your next best friend! Or your next big sale because you just ran into John Doe-see-dough on the train and he’s looking for a solid web guy.
- LISTEN TO YOUR GUT:
- I’m not sure how to articulate this, but you know that funny feeling you get sometimes and then you go and do the thing you felt funny about anyway. Yeah, that. Stop doing that. Listen to your gut. I know it’s hard to do because our minds are saying “well, it can’t be that bad” or “no, no this is on the up and up.” Your gut is a wise tiny buddha, and it sits with all the crappy shit you do anyway (e.g. eating gluten, drinking Bulleit Rye) and it still looks out for you. So, respect it and start giving it a little recognition.
- DO THAT ONE THING:
- I’m not going to sit here and give you a big speech about how you should do all the things you want to do because…let’s face it…I don’t do the stuff I want to do. Not all the time, at least. But go do that ONE thing you want to do. Maybe it’s take a trip to the Motherland, or parachute out of a single-engine Cessna, or learn how to speak Japanese fluently. I’ve always wanted to start a podcast. Guess what, I’m doing that one thing! And it feels phenomenal. When you don’t do at least something for yourself, then what have you really got? A life lived for others…and that’s not cool!
- DON’T PANIC:
- It’s taken me a while to learn this lesson, but seriously, don’t panic. Maybe a better way to put this is to just stay calm. Things are hard enough already without you pushing the panic button, so when you do it’s like an overloading explosion of franticness. No one wants to be around that. When faced with a tough situation in your personal life or professional one, respond to it, don’t react. When you let things sit, even for just a couple of seconds, you let your mind process things properly. You can see different angles. You also might be able to see the “other-side” that we are always so blind to.
- IT’S ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS, MAN!:
- What do you think you’ll be thinking about when you’re on your deathbed? Morbid question, right? I know, but I still give this one thought from time to time and this is the reality: all that really matters are the relationships you have, that’s it. No big secret there. If you have people you care about and who care about you, you’re doing pretty well! Sure…work can matter, projects can matter, but not as much as your relationships. Be in them, explore them, be kind to them, hell…scrutinize them, make sure they right for you. Life is so much better with awesome relationships. Be there for your people and don’t forget to say I love you.
- CHOOSE INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION:
- Going back to what I was talking about earlier, this year has been a year of inclusion and exclusion. I choose to include myself in cool communities like YLC, NIM, and WordPress because they’re filled with good people and we discuss topics I care about. I also choose to exclude myself from being around naysayers, elitists, or pessimistic people. I choose to not live in my social media bubble all the time because I know it feeds me more of “the same” than diversifying content. Choose exclusion or inclusion, just make sure it’s good for you.
In the right context, anyone can shine. And in the wrong context, anyone of us could falter. Choose your groups, your friends, and your relationships wisely. Ask yourself if you want to thrive, be challenged, and feel good about yourself. Or not?
I guess I kinda knew all these things anyway, but for some reason these lessons were amplified this year. Just remember, context is everything. You can help it or you can hurt it. You can neglect it or you can learn from it. You can choose to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others. You can choose to run your life, you can choose to feed your relationships. The operative phrase is “you can choose.”
Wrapping up 2016
If this wasn’t your year, then forget about it. Or take the things you want to take and realize that tomorrow is a new day, a new month, and yes…a whole new year.
I’ll leave you as I do every year…with an inspirational quote. I sincerely hope 2017 is your year!
“Let this coming year be better than all the others. Vow to do some of the things you have always wanted to do but could not find the time. Call up a forgotten friend. Drop an old grudge, and replace it with some pleasant memories. Vow not to make a promise you do not think you can keep. Walk tall, and smile more. You will look 10 years younger. Do not be afraid to say, I love you. Say it again. They are the sweetest words in the world.” – Ann Landers