I started this annual endeavor of writing a public reflection blog in 2010, after my 27th birthday, having no idea at the time that I’d continue to make the commitment and be writing one every year since.
At the time, I would describe my life as off-kilter. If you look at the major ‘life buckets’, I had at least one that felt wholly chaotic at any given time. All these years later, even if that’s the case, I’d say that the major difference is in my ability to weather those storms, not allowing them to rock me so much. I’ve truly learned that we can’t control our circumstances, but we can control how we react to them. And that has changed my perception of my life, thus creating more peace, stability, and enjoyment.
As I share every year, I do this for a few primary reasons:
1. To have for myself to reflect back upon in the future.
2. To express reverence, gratitude, and celebration for the happenings and learnings within the year.
3. To take that reflection as a springboard into my upcoming year.
4. Rather than keep it for myself as a silent time capsule, each time I share it, others say it sparks in them some version of the same practice. As a result, they say that they become more intentional about how they spend their time. If my experiences can offer any amount of truth, inspiration, or guidance to others, I’m in!
Before spending days digging through 4 journals, thousands of photos, my calendar, and my social media accounts to create this… I spent time re-reading all of those past entries, and wasn’t surprised to see how much remains consistent, no matter the age, calendar year, or circumstances. My takeaway: there were always ups-and-downs that came from outside circumstances, but I remained resilient and learned from them. I’ve had an ongoing love affair with all things growth-oriented: reading, travel, relationships, entrepreneurship. I’ve also had an ongoing non-love affair with any regular fitness routine. A theme remains of having an ongoing evolution towards a healthier relationship with my self-worth, in part, how I tie my looks to it. There’s always been a theme of mindfulness and deep intention, even when I didn’t call it that. I was ever-reminded that the things that seem so monumental look so small or are completely forgettable in the rearview mirror. And, that not all things grow in a continuous upward trajectory.
I was struck by this passage that I wrote in 2014, in particular: “For years, I’ve defined success as freedom: the freedom to make choices because I have the financial ability to do so. The freedom to be myself, and to be confident about who I am in every environment. The freedom to learn, travel, grow, start and expand businesses, make choices of my time that suit me and not others, and the freedom to love and make mistakes because they are opportunities to grow.”
These words remain the bedrock of what motivates me.
I was also struck by the gift of hindsight in helping to connect the dots to see how some of the coolest things that have happened to me came as a result of seeds being planted that I didn’t know would accumulate into said thing (celebrity interviews, tv show opportunities, business ideas and collaborations, love….). What’s my takeaway? Doing the things that feel aligned, exciting, and energizing are always the cues to say ‘yes’, without deep expectation or attachment to how they might play out. Also, it’s important to recognize that many seeds take a long time to grow into their fullness, and playing the long game takes patience.
So, let’s teleport back to today, in late 2020, and start with lessons learned from this year (and then I’ll dive into the context and what ‘actually happened’):
-I’ve had everything I needed all along. The lessons, struggles, and skills I possess haven’t changed that much over 10+ years. My mindset had to catch up.
-People’s unkind spewing is rarely about you. I always pause to ask where my blame or lesson is in it (what’s the impact of my actions?). And I also consider that my showing up in whatever way I did is a trigger for them, and is not about me. In one instance where someone was really hurtful, I shared the pain it caused me directly with them (a stranger). Months later, he followed up to apologize and explain his learning and healing since. That doesn’t often occur, but it’s a good reminder to have empathy for everyone’s journey, even when their growth hits you like a ton of bricks.
-My intentions for 2020 were ‘surrender’ and ‘spaciousness’ and my goal was ‘to have fewer goals’. Look how that turned out 🙂
-Someone else’s expertise need not trump my own intuition.
-Invite people in… not just when you’re carrying the weight of the relationship. True vulnerability means showing up when it’s uncomfortable. Let people help you. Tell them what you need. It’s ok to feel all of your feelings.
-Oftentimes, the thing you’re resisting the most is precisely the thing that you need.
-Don’t drag out your decisions. Prove to yourself and the Universe that you can take quick action.
-Be kinder to yourself. You would never let someone talk to you the way you talk to yourself.
-Winners do quit…strategically.
-The life I’m living now used to seem wholly out of reach… and I’m doing my best not to take that for granted!
-I saw the true power of manifesting… that when I truly desired, visualized, and felt the thing as though it was already a reality, it arrived (not always on my timeline, but it showed up). Same came true with doubt and lack. So I was in perpetual thought awareness to course-correct.
-Don’t let the pursuit of perfection get in the way of progress.
-You have to do shit you’ve never done before and that scares you to grow into the person you hope to become.
-Don’t get so attached to your self-imposed identity that you miss the opportunity to grow (my seeing this in myself when it comes to a lot of titles like ‘coach’, ‘fiancee, ‘wife’, ‘mother’…).
-You have to say ‘no’, even when it’s a ‘big deal’ or really shiny, if it doesn’t feel aligned. Walk away and honor yourself.
-Sometimes humility is a mask to hide behind (and play small).
-I love the idea of incremental improvement. However, I don’t want to become settled into that mindset, no longer believing or working toward things that would be much bigger leaps and changes
-Help and support can manifest in a lot of ways, and will change based on circumstances and context.
-I must find a healthy balance between ingesting current events and letting the media’s fear-mongering energy get me down.
-When I am down, my focus is to find incremental improvement upwards, not to go from 10% to 90%, so to speak.
-Always remember that we are all equal: none better, nor lesser.
-There’s always a way: just get creative, and stay patient.
-Relationships are everything.
-I don’t have to ‘do’ or perform to be valuable. I can just be.
-When I feel taken advantage of, that’s often because I didn’t hold to my boundaries. I let others treat me like that.
-This year really reminded me that nothing is impossible, permanent, or unchangeable.
-Some of my richest moments were: good sleep, waking up without an alarm, days with nothing on the calendar, laughs, a good book, being in nature. It truly is about the little things.
-I noticed over and over again my different relationships with time. In some instances, I felt like an abundant time creator. In others, I felt squeezed by it. In others, it was a source of annoyance when my ‘time wasn’t respected’. In others, that felt like a path opening for something else.
-I was called ‘superhuman’ several times this year. This surprised and bothered me because I never want others to see me through that lens. I have the same flaws and challenges that many do. I also learned that this caused some of those people to dump a lot on me and treat me unfairly because they felt I would be unfazed by it. I corrected them and was glad I spoke up.
-Borrow confidence from those who see it in you until you can believe it for yourself.
-Work is like gas. It fills up whatever space you give it. See what happens when you limit its space.
-Whatever you want… give more of it.
-How to navigate life in a new family (in-laws).
-Stay available for divine moments to be used (like when we helped a suicidal man in the middle of a high-traffic road move out of it and get the help he needed).
-Disconnecting from the need for validation and approval of others may be an ongoing, lifetime project.
-There is a lot of life and beauty in slowness.
-The exact same situation that once felt irksome can immediately change when my perception of it does.
-There’s a delicate balance between admiration and comparison. Be careful to allow admiration to fuel you, not turning it into comparison that stops you.
-Stop grasping. It’s a form of control. The best things happen when you let go and allow to come what’s meant for you. All stress and anxiety are a result of desiring a different past or future. You’ll be much more at peace if you plan, release, and receive.
-Even when someone pays you, if the relationship no longer feels aligned, it’s okay to say so, course-correct, and/or refund them and walk away.
-There are few greater feelings than getting to do work that a. I love, b. at which I feel naturally gifted, and c. helps others.
-Old habits stick around, even when you think you’ve grown past them, unless you continue to release and replace them. Some of those were inconsistency with physical activity, tying too much of my value and identity to my work, and a desire to please and be ever-available to people about whom I care.
-There is no better use of my energy than to grow and nurture myself before anything else. Then I have more to give, as well as more quality to offer.
-Social media is a mixed bag for me. Trolls and internal pressure for growth and engagement were downers. But recognizing how much good can come from the tool (and has) was also really telling. I got a lot of new clients through it, as well as countless messages of gratitude from strangers and old contacts sharing how what I put out has meant something to them. So I keep showing up and connect with that intention and an ever-evolving set of boundaries for those spaces.
-Continuing to find the balance between an abundance mindset with money, balanced with financial responsibility (which is my fallback comfort zone).
-Quarantine was a time where the ‘wheels fell off’ on my beauty routines and put me into more work on my long-held insecurities in that area. Awareness was step 1. Acceptance 2. Then ownership and release were next.
-Tapped into a deep-seated desire to be understood. Traced it back to a specific moment in early childhood. Then continued to trace it to all the places where it came up to teach me to release it. I did a self-healing to release and work through it and have felt improvement.
-Using my voice to speak up for my needs is challenging. One place I’ve had to confront it is in the architect’s office, when they or our builders will have ideas and I’ll need to advocate for my/our desires, even when they’re the experts.
-Being in quarantine for a good portion of a year certainly magnified my already-strong desire for inner reflection and learning, as you saw in the aforementioned lessons. Now, here’s what went down:
-For the birthday kick-off last year, I opted for bowling, hibachi, at-home massages, and karaoke.
-Did a guest lecture at Emory two times, which was a full-circle moment since it was for the MBA class of my first business mentor. It was also ironic since I’ve never taken a business class.
-Was a guest on two of the biggest podcasts I’ve done each of which had multi-million person audiences.
-Had an intuition to take a concept I’d had for an all-virtual business accelerator program for entrepreneurs who want to run businesses that don’t run them. Launched the concept in November 2019 and ran enrollment through December. The program kicked off in January to a group of 21 paid enrollees with much good energy. ‘The Mind Your Business Accelerator’ was born!
-This was a big undertaking– I’d never had myself on the hook for 12 months with clients and had to be in an ongoing mode of client care and content creation to deliver on what I’d promised. I’m really glad I did it. Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised by the results, particularly given how they’re all small-business owners whose businesses were battered by COVID on month 3 of our program.
-I lost about 40% of them over that month, which was one of those moments where I chose compassion over legality. They’d signed contracts to stay in for a year, but I couldn’t stomach holding them to that, even when it hurt my bottom line.
-It feels like such a distant and out-of-place memory to have foreign travel in here, but, back in late November, we flew to Carategena, Colombia with family. We soaked up the vibrancy, enjoyed local cuisine, and saw lots of beautiful street art. Then, we hopped over to Panama to visit my parents in their new home with extended family. We saw the Canal, mixed with monkeys on a river boat, shopped local markets, enjoyed the city and countryside, walked the black and white sand beaches, and even toured a possible wedding venue.
-We came home briefly to polish up my learning of a 3-song traditional Indian dance to perform for Deepa’s wedding… in Chennai. Therefore, I flew to India for adventures in Chennai, Kerala, and Delhi, full of beautiful colors, delicious food, sights like the Taj Mahal, a healing at an ayurvedic medical center.
-Met President Obama, a.k.a. Brendan’s former boss.
-Struggled for months with my assistant at the time and I tried to toe-the-line between working through some challenges and giving her chances to grow and course-correct, versus cutting the cord. I trusted that I could replace her without a lot of tumult, and that that might be honoring to me, not just worrying about her. After putting up with more than any boss should deal with from a hire, and subsequently giving her another chance, a raise, and a bonus, she quit right after the new year.
-I was fortunate to find a great and very-capable replacement shortly thereafter. She called me crying about 6 months into our work and said she was having health issues that would preclude her from moving forward at our current pace. It’s weird to say (those who work closely with their teams will get it) but I was heartbroken for her, and for me. It triggered a reaction in me that something was wrong with me and that I wasn’t someone for whom people wanted to work. But then I shook it off, recognizing that she didn’t quit (and is still with me in a small capacity) and hired a colleague of hers from a former job. What started off with promise turned downhill relatively quickly. Again, I was in a place of replacing this role and had to look at the pattern and learn how to break it. So I hired a true professional who does this work as her passion and has a history of success in this type of role…and who costs 2-3x more. But I’m investing in myself and banking on the value she will bring.
-Speaking of, COVID-be-damned: I finished the year with my coaching and consulting business at 300% in revenue over last year… even after sales plummeted by 40% in March and April (across all my businesses, but those rebounded to more normal levels later).
-I was reminded that ‘where attention goes, energy flows’ through this. That the second I made a decision to focus my energy on this businesse’s growth, it grew, in spite of the economic climate. While I know that’s not the case for all types of business, what is true is that when we dedicate ourselves to focus on solutions and executing those hypotheses, we see results (sometimes ones that need more iteration, but other times ones that work).
-It’s odd to say out loud, but I made more money in 2020 than I ever have before. I give a lot of credit to this decision to say that in the absence of ways I’d spend my time in a non-COVID world (traveling and socializing so much more), I’d re-allocate that time to self-care. (This showed up not just in the ways that we typically think of, like massages, but in deep spiritual work, healing, and meditation. I earned a certifiicaton in Reiki, and I practiced that both on myself and on friends and clients.) This, coupled with a focus on uninterrupted time, (typically interrupted by things that come along with travel) I could focus and ‘play the game of money’. The second I turned my attention from the fear-mongering of the recession we were facing and the fear of massive implosion of businesses, and turned to putting money back into the economy (i.e., spending) and working on my business, things flourished again.
-I learned Reiki on a whim. I felt drawn to learn about it after having a strange experience with an energy worker and wanting to understand and no longer give over so much power to someone because I simply didn’t understand the modality. In turn, I realized we all have access to this energy and healing potential. The labeling of it actually makes it seem more unique, when, in fact, it’s something we see in many traditions (think: “laying-on of hands” in Christianity, for example).
-I also invited in a connection to energy and guides I cannot see through symbols (ladybugs…showing up everywhere) and by name and signs.
-I’ve diverted chronologically… After India came Cape Cod Christmas with Brendan’s family followed by a cozy cabin with friends in North Georgia for New Year’s.
-2020 kicked off to a quick start with my group coaching program launching and Network Under 40 continuing with its live events in 3 cities (without much involvement from me).
-As I sat with all I had on my plate, plus planning a wedding, and looking for a new house (possibly building one), my gut told me to clear something, and it was my book.
-After 2 years of working on my proposal with my literary agent, I called her and said it felt like the wrong time. She was supportive and said I could pick it up when it felt right, which was a relief, for sure.
-Brendan and I flew to New Mexico to go to an incredible ranch (Vermejo) as a possible wedding venue. While it wasn’t ‘the one’, it was cool to go ice fishing, horseback-riding in the snow, and see all the wildlife.
-February came and Mom traveled from Panama to see me on a tour to see her kids around the US. We celebrated her birthday and I surprised her with a day of wedding-dress shopping. It was one-part surreal to do that for the first time and another-part special to share that with her.
-Brendan and I then went up to NYC in early March for a friend’s engagement party, to be in our old part-time home (full-time once for him), see a show at the Apollo, and go to Kleinfeld (thanks to an intro to the owner to see if i’d #SayYesToTheDress). As it turned out, the experience was the opposite of my expectations: hated 99% of the dresses, but the service was great (I thought it would be chock-full of great options and the salespeople would be pushy).
-As we were there, COVID became a huge part of our vernacular, and we came home just in the nick of time before NYC became the US epicenter.
-I remember thinking that it would be 8-10 weeks, max, and then we’d be ‘back to normal’. Obviously that was a combo of naivety meeting blind optimism…
-One thing I had more line-of-sight into during all the months of quarantine was how much a. I enjoy being home, b. enjoy time alone, and c. how a lot of my relationships changed when we didn’t have built-in social engagement. and that actually felt freeing. (It’s actually funny to have gone through the exercise of writing this, which includes my going back through my calendar, and to see how packed it was pre mid-March 2020, and then how different it looked for the rest of the year).
-I’d begun working with my mentee who was recently released from prison. Over the course of our relationship evolving, I asked him if he felt this work would be valuable for his peers. He believed it would be, so we worked alongside Common Good, a non-profit which does college-level education for those who are currently incarcerated, to build out a pilot program. It took many months, but we now have 5 matches and are in-action on creating more while getting in-real-time feedback to make it a more scalable program.
-As is the case for many, time became a new construct where work and life blended, and there wasn’t much to differentiate one day from another. I came to really enjoy it, first feeling gratitude for having safety and security, and second, feeling it was a nice pendulum swing from a life always on the go.
-I recall my feelings being all over the map: from feeling an urgency to be there for everyone else, to the point of serious depletion. At times, I felt scared and anxious, while at others, I felt at peace and quite good.
-As the months passed, Brendan, the true extrovert (I’m an ambivert: equal parts intro-and extro-verted) was getting antsy being home. He convinced me to check out travel trailers. I had a mini-meltdown in the parking lot before we went in, accusing him of ‘trying to change me’. Once I calmed down, we toured the Airstreams and realized that it was like a small NYC apartment on wheels, and I was down with giving it a try. So we became the proud owners of a 22′ Airstream Bambi about a month later and picked her (named “Quality Time Bob”) up in Florida, after a visit with friends in Ft. Lauderdale (who also were COVID-free and our first interaction in months)….and a life where I’d camped a total of 2x became a much-more-regular occurrence.
-We got in some good travel with this (and also sold our old car to our mutual friend/Brendan’s ex-girlfriend… and got a Jeep Grand Cherokee to haul the trailer…). We took lots of trips in Florida and Georgia and one up to his family in Cape Cod (post negative tests) for two weeks this summer. It was a good chance to see his family, as well as my aunt and uncle on the 20-hour return drive as we passed through Maryland’s eastern shore on the way south.
-We capped off the year in it by going to the Tampa area when I used it for a ‘CEO week’ to take no meetings and not schedule any work projects. It was really nice after a year of no breaks.
-After some pausing on house hunting, we got back in the market and had a serendipitous situation where some friends told us they saw a property we should check out 2 streets over from them (about 1.5 miles from our current home, which was ideal). It wasn’t on the market, was an old 60’s rancher on about 3/4 of an acre (a lot for intown Atlanta), with a creek and lots of trees. We drove over, reached out to the email on the handmade sign, and were there the next day with the neighbor-turned-estate-executor. We were immediately sold and then had our minds-blown to learn that the cost was about $200k under neighboring comps. We had our builders there the next day. They agreed it was a huge win, and we were under contract soon after. It feels exciting and scary to build a custom house, but with each step (working through the variance process, architecture, engineering, financing, design, etc) our team has been incredible. Our architect is a new friend who also happens to be renowned in his field (he did Oprah’s house… swoon) and he gave us his time gratis and brought on one of his team members (we pay him) and their work is out of this world. They work so well with our builders (two incredible women) and everyone is thrilled to do it together– so different from the horror stories you hear. Even the moments that could have made things go wrong have worked in our favor… like an original 60-day contract period turned into a 6-month one so we could get our planning done! Unheard of.
-This whole process got me thinking a lot about focus and essentialism. And I realized that even though my original home-turned-cash-flowing-rental property was profitable and easy to manage, it was time to sell it. I’d actually started the process of doing so in March, but then got a gut feeling not to do so. Plus, my renters asked that I didn’t. I learned 2 weeks later that the company that gave me an offer (an iBuyer) pulled hundreds across the country. But it was now time and the home went up on the market after an incredible and quick team effort with more showings than expected in week 1 (that’s where we meet current moment of this writing).
-The other thing to shed is Network Under 40. I’m emotionally ready to move on and was lucky to have interested buyers before COVID… then, live events evaporated. So we held on, managing to survive profitably and now I have interested buyers again!
-One other big movement this year was my decision not to let COVID impact my plans to have a tv show that had been verrrrrry early in-the-works with a production company. So, I did what I know how to do: network my way into executives in Hollywood who gave me a crash course in getting tv shows made. I honed my pitch, got it in front of 5 production companies, and made some progress. Let’s hope next year’s update will have a tv show to show you!
-I used my voice in a lot of uncomfortable ways this year. Sometimes it was to admit my ignorance about racial justice, and to use my platforms to help educate myself and others who wanted to learn. In others it was telling friends directly how their lack of care and attention to our friendship was hurting me and couldn’t continue like that.
-I was also stretched (in a growth way) a lot with my coaching clients this year. I really owned this part of my work, where in the past I was really reticent to do so. And it resulted in massive transformations in the lives and businesses of about 20 solo clients. It kept me on-my-toes to be in the work, too, to be at my best for them.
-Part of that was reading. I devoured 40+ books this year.
-During this work with clients, I saw a pattern among my summer clients: each of them came seeking more from their work and all left our time together with a coaching or consulting practice set up. I had an idea to do a 9-week version of ‘Mind Your Business’, but this time bring in the systems, operations, and automations expertise of my friend Kate. She agreed and 4 weeks later, we launched to a 17-person cohort with rave reviews and results! She and I agreed to do another ongoing collaboration in 2021, which was great on a lot of levels, one in particular being that as much as I am capable of running things on my own, it’s nice to have someone I respect with a different skill set partaking, too.
-One thing a pandemic will do is put things in perspective. And that helped me to want to step into my dreams more and not doubt myself as much.
-With all that’s going on, what was a stressor that we’d not set a date and location for our wedding turned into a blessing. So, as we build this house, we’re putting it on the back-burner.
-Speaking of, we celebrated 4 years together (and 1.5 years of engagement)!
-Shortly after our anniversary, we got some really scary news that a member of my immediate family was diagnosed with cancer. For their privacy, I’ll just say that it put me in a tailspin of emotions ranging from mortality, to denial, acceptance, family dynamics, impact on those who will remain, our relationship, and everything in-between. I can say with certainty that I’ve never felt so depressed before. The good news: they are doing well now and undergoing ongoing treatments!
-Did some cool collaborations with companies like BlackRock and FedEx, and BumbleBizz, and got to do a live interview for a client in a real tv studio.
-Brendan and I also took a whack at a first professional project together, back-filling lost business by combining our expertise in live and virtual event production to produce a 130-year-old nonprofit’s virtual experience for a national audience and to much success! It wasn’t my preferred kind of work, in the end, but it was a good experiment for us!
-I also dropped a surprise limited series podcast with my friend Elizabeth (called Up and At Her) for the hell of it and was a guest on many others’ podcasts.
-In the vein of essentialism, I decided that writing my Forbes column wasn’t a priority and only put out 2 articles between March and November.
-Biden/Harris won the election and gave us (i.e., me and those who voted for them) hope again!
-One of my goals about 15 years ago was to grow into a place where I could eventually be a support as a guide/mentor and offer financial assistance and investment to others who need it, specifically younger folks in business. And as I look back, I see how much that is true now. I also had a moment where the guy who helped shepherd me into a lot of entrepreneurial communities when I was barely getting started came to me for financial and emotional support. I gave both with no question, and didn’t expect to get it back and was okay with that. And then, within 24 hours, a 6-month overdue client invoice came in for almost the identical amount I gave to him. Served as a reminder that what you give, comes back to you.
-Our birthdays (mine and Brendan’s being 1 day apart) were celebrated in a very small gathering in a friend’s backyard…how times have changed!
-Brendan made me an hour-long tribute video from loved ones which deeply moved me!
-Some of the things I wished for myself for this coming year:
-to enjoy the home building process and to move in!
-to have a hit tv show!
-my business to thrive more than ever before
-to sell Network Under 40 and my rental property
-my relationship and love with Brendan to continue to deepen
-more snuggles with Chairman Meow
-to feel more confident and embodied in my gifts and the impact they make
-to be surrounded by people who elevate me
-to become more connected to my spiritual gifts
Thanks for taking this literary journey with me, as well as taking whatever role you’ve played in my story
Cheers to what’s to come!