Methinks this is round-up number 11, meaning 11 years of reflection and life lessons in the books! It also works out great as the decade comes to a close and we head into 2020, to have 10+ years of memories and learnings on which to look back.
For anyone who’s new to my year-in-review practice, I started it as a 24-year-old who began to notice that life moves quickly. Although the speed of time doesn’t actually change, as we age, it certainly feels as if it does. So, I decided to embark on a practice of using my birthday as a mile-marker to write about the past year, the things I’ve experienced, and that which I’ve learned or continue to learn.
It’s a work that serves several purposes for me: one part memory book, just so I don’t forget the things big and small that transpired. The other part is a public journal that a. holds me accountable to doing it each year, b. has become a cherished time capsule for me, c. feels hella vulnerable to put my shit out there for anyone to read, d. helps me to appreciate and take stock, and e. according to many of you, has become an inspiring and motivating tool for you, too. So, that’s why I do it.
After spending countless hours scouring my memory, calendar, pictures, journal and social media from the last year, here is 35 in review:
In full transparency, birthdays have a history of making me sad. No matter how much I’ve tried historically to focus on the good stuff, and those who care and remember, I tend to get down and get fixated in my mind on those who forgot. So, it was a big coup for me this year to overcome that pattern for the first time. That started by staying off social media on my actual birthday so I had no way of knowing the summation of who reached out. Also, for the first time in a long time, I planned an intimate gathering of friends to go bowling on my actual birthday night (which continues a nice run of child-like birthday parties to honor that kid in all of us). That kicked off the new year with fun and love, focusing on that of abundance, not lack.
Technically, that’s how the year wrapped up, so let’s rewind back to November 13, 2018, the kick-off of my 35th year…
Last year was a joint Gatsby-themed birthday with Brendan because our birthdays are one day apart.
I had a hankering this year to feel more grounded at home. That will seem laughable to many when you read this and see how much travel I still did, but I dialed it back from about 60% to 30% and that felt perfect this year. I needed to listen to myself and stay in tune with my needs. For years, being on the go all the time was perfect. This year I wanted more roots and stability.
Ironically, it was time to travel soon after our birthdays (mine and Brendan’s), so off we went to Santa Fe for Thanksgiving with my family. It was my first time in New Mexico (we choose a new destination every year) and won’t be my last! Should you go, check out 10,000 Waves Spa and Meow Wolf…trust me!
Brendan and I departed for a road trip to introduce me to some national parks and beautiful places that I’d never seen before, like the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Horseshoe Bend, before we departed from Vegas. This trip opened my eyes to how much I love national parks, and now I’m eager to explore more of them.
December arrived and after waiting my whole life to travel to Paris, the time had come. I’d been to France, but had avoided Paris because I was “waiting for a romantic adventure” and the time finally felt right. So, Brendan and I flew to Paris. Little did I know, but the flight there would be one of the biggest milestones of my life.
For the entirety of my adult life, I’d struggled to answer the questions of whether or not I wanted to ever get married and/or have children. Naturally, that was a major sticking point in my relationship with Brendan. He’d remained extraordinarily graceful and patient with me for, at that time, 2-plus years, as those were non-negotiable for him.
We boarded a flight, sat, and I looked to my right and pointed out a family with a cute baby (if you know me you’ll know that is a rarity for me to call out a cute child). He turned to me with puppy-dog eyes and asked, “Can we please have one?”. This wasn’t an unusual question from him, yet my response and reaction were. Immediately, I began to feel tears streaming down my cheeks and without thinking, I said, “OK.” He cried and kissed my cheek, while whispering that he’d be there to support me every step of the way. I replied, “Can I have a mulligan, in case I change my mind?”. That moment became a domino effect that set into motion so much more this year: the decision to choose one another, get engaged, and begin to plan a forever future together.
We arrived in Paris and little did we know that we had gotten there just in time literally to be in the middle of the yellow vest protests. We found ourselves walking through torn up streets of broken shop windows, car fires, and angry mobs of people. It wasn’t quite the romantic Paris I’d envisioned, but simply reality. We still hit all the tourist spots: saw the Mona Lisa, Eiffel Tower, a creepy art exhibit of spider webs, Notre Dame (pre-fire), and so on.
From there we headed to Rome for me to eat my heart out (it’s the only place in the world I go and my sole focus is food) and to tap into Brendan’s work with the Vatican. I enjoyed some solo time eating gelato and spaghetti while reading Michelle Obama’s book and making friends with the Italian waiter, who was also a twin and reading the same book!
Next, we take our carry-ons to Miami to pop into Art Basel (you’d be amazed at my packing skills for all these various places and fashion needs), then straight to Big Sur, California to check out Esalen for a tantra workshop. It turned out it was more of a relationship workshop (misnomer in the title) but it was a great weekend at a spectacular location!
Being settled in our new house for the first holiday season, Brendan’s family agreed to visit us for Christmas. We had a great time showing them Atlanta for the first time, and giving them the full-blown holiday experience (Botanical garden holiday lights, axe throwing, private museum tour, food tour, and the like), including a colorful mixture of friends for a lively Christmas Eve dinner.
For New Years, we jetted to Guatemala with our friends Adam and Tyler to have what can only be described as a magical experience. It was the perfect rejuvenating and centering experience to head into a new calendar year and last year of the decade.
That magic continued to unfold as days later I sat at my desk and recorded the first episode with Deepak Chopra of our new digital series together: Diving Deep With Deepak & Darrah. Here was a man I’d admired and learned from his teachings for years. Suddenly, I’m co-hosting a show with him, getting to sit with him and ask anything I wanted for an hour at a time, week after week. That experience taught me more than I can share in a summary. Some of the lessons included what I call ‘borrowed confidence’…by that I mean that Deepak saw something in me I didn’t see in myself at the time. So, the only way for me to move forward was to borrow that confidence he felt until I could embody it for myself.
I learned countless lessons about growth and life and was reminded that the things that are meant for us happen without resistance and toil. For example, had you asked me if that was a goal of mine, the answer was a certain ’no’ because it was so far out of sight and what I thought was possible. Yet, it unfolded so quickly and effortlessly, which is how I knew deeply that it was right. I took that and uncharacteristically made my only goal for 2019 ‘to have less goals’ because I wanted to allow life to transpire and happen for me as it needed to, not allowing my attachment to my own goals to get in the way of that. Deepak and I have since released 33 episodes. I look forward to seeing how our friendship and collaboration can continue to do what he asked of it: to allow me to help make his work more relatable and understandable to others.
Next up: NYC to revisit our old part-time home, connect with Deepak, bring together local friends, start ring shopping, and avoid the Super Bowl madness in Atlanta!
My work with Deepak also catalyzed my love for interviewing people and extracting wisdom and value for the readers or watchers. So, I opened myself up to those opportunities and interviewed people like: Nastia Liukin, Shaq, Ryan Holiday, Marie Forleo, Sheri Salata, Kevin Harrington, Baron Davis, Bill Belichick, Jean Chatzky, Guy Kawasaki, Bobbi Brown, Cal Newport, Jillian Michaels, and Seth Godin.
Many snippets of these interviews will also be featured in my ongoing project: my next book. I continued to work on my book proposal with my agent and writing partner (going on year 2 now…learned a lot about this process since starting) and was surprised and sad to say goodbye to that writing partner this summer when he shared the news that his priorities had changed and this was no longer a part of them. In that moment, I made a choice to trust that that was what was best for both of us, even though it wasn’t what I wanted, and empathize with how difficult that must have been for him to come to that conclusion.
Within days, I learned that I’d be losing my event directors in Baltimore and Nashville later this year as they both were ready to pursue other things. Then, shortly after, my bookkeeper quit. It was definitely a time for regeneration, letting go of the old and inviting in new in each of these areas. It kicked up some narratives in my mind that I’m difficult to work with and must be the problem, but when I dug into it, realized that was self-imposed.
I also realized that when we allow things to stay comfortable, it can blind us to areas that need attention and growth, and that was the case for each of these. I also was reminded of how easily communication can go hay-wire. With one of these teammates, she pinpointed a sentence I had said to her in recent weeks that “rubbed her the wrong way”. Instead of getting defensive, I replied, “I certainly hope that you won’t allow one sentence to override the thousands of sentences we’ve shared in our years of knowing one another.” And then I let it be because here’s the thing: we can’t control how others perceive or receive our communications. We can control our actions and intentions, and can and should try to clean up any mess that might occur. Ultimately, though, everyone will digest our communications (and lack thereof) through his/her own perspective and experiences. Not taking that personally is one of the hardest lessons I’ll continue to learn.
And, earlier that year, I had two resignations come, one from a team member who’d been with me for 6 years so he could start his own company. Neither contentious, but both jarring, and one was followed up by a new hire who quit before she started. However, before I panicked, I paused and realized that there is something that needs to shed to show me what’s coming. It’s taken me years of experience (and meditation) to approach things this way and realize that problems are only such if we choose to see them that way.
This leads me to about a week later when my assistant came to me asking for both a raise and a change in her structure. I had my feelings about the timing and request given some recent circumstances, and I made the mistake of responding to her email request also via email, which led to unnecessary misinterpretation. Two days later, I had a resignation notice in my inbox, chock-full of verbal attacks on my character. I was beside myself. Even though I knew the aforementioned about not taking it personally, knowing someone felt the things she said she did about me left me in a puddle. Immediate efforts to call and connect (she’s in another country; hence, why we typically email) were not answered. Days later, we spoke, and when coming from a place of love and understanding, talked through it all, worked it out, she came back on board, and even to my surprise, I offered her the raise and structure changes she requested. My older brother suggested this wouldn’t last, but I have to trust my gut. She told me that her harsh words were not about me at all. That confirmed what I know: people are projecting their own experiences on us (and we to them) and shielding themselves from hurt…often mistakenly causing hurt along the way. Oddly, we are better for it now, partly because we chose to rise above it and not let it be the end or a defining moment for us.
That leads me to another lesson: the more I’ve put myself out there publicly (and will continue to), the more I receive both loving and hateful critique. It’s so natural to drown out the good for the bad, and let that record play on repeat in my head. So, I’ve done a lot of internal work to remind myself that this criticism doesn’t count when it’s coming from faceless online bullies and people who aren’t on the field, in the game themselves. If they’re simply jerks who are on the sidelines, sitting pretty, there to hail insults, I try to keep it moving. I’m not impenetrable, but I’ve seen a massive improvement.
That has also led me to hide less. This is something I was guilty of for years: fearful of other people’s opinions and judgments so much so that I would keep playing small and hiding from opportunities to avoid that possible wrath. The funny thing was, most of the time people weren’t actually paying attention, and then I also realized that when they were, it was a great sign that people were paying attention, so that meant that my message(s) were spreading. This accumulation of learnings led me to a place where more than ever before, I flung myself into new and scary things saying to myself along the way, “Why not?” and “Why not me?”.
Another new and scary thing I took on this year (but can’t speak to in much detail yet) was awakening to the fact that it was time to sell one of my companies. I had a deep feeling of discomfort and told Brendan I needed to get away for a solo retreat in nature. So, after the wedding of dear friends, we drove to a hike out at a nearby lake. Within moments, I knew. Within 5 weeks’ time of that moment, I went from making that decision to sell, to holding a formal bidding process for 4 companies who were interested in purchasing, with a waiting list of 4 more. I’d learned everything about how to do it and built the process while I went. Once that is final, I’ll share more!
Back to chronological time… in February we were off to LA for a little sunshine and some work: Oscars event, charity comedy event, and some time with friends!
During this time I was relaunching my website and working with a woman who specializes in launches, copy, funnels…all sorts of digital marketing stuff. I learned a valuable lesson here, too: no matter how expert someone is in something: always trust your gut. I paid her a good deal of money to change things that didn’t entirely feel and sound like me when she was finished. The results: poor and worse than what they were before I brought her on. I needed to trust my instincts and blend that with her wisdom, but instead, I let the idea of her knowledge overpower mine.
Up next: Brendan and I started taking ballroom dancing lessons, mostly because I wanted to know if had my mom’s talent (she used to compete) and after years of watching Dancing With The Stars, I felt as if I could do it. I was sort of right…
Then it was off to explore another national park: this time to Joshua Tree with a group of girlfriends and then straight to Civana resort in Arizona, thanks to a friend who comped us with a 3-night stay and spa treatments…it was just what we needed!
Around this time (April), I got an email from a former editor of one of the online publications for which I used to write. He asked if he could pay me to mentor him, and we’ve since created a beautiful relationship of mentorship and coaching. Because of our work together, I began to shatter a lot of my misgivings about the idea of being a coach. I’d felt for so long that there were too many of them and that they were often baseless and fluffy. I didn’t want to be lumped in with them, yet, when he and I worked together, I felt so alive, and was blown away by the impact our time together was having on him (all the way in New Zealand).
Shortly after we started, a friend and I found ourselves speaking on a panel together. Afterward, she asked me if I would coach her: she was growing her business and found that her life was going to hell in a handbasket in favor of her keeping her business afloat. I said no, still resisting coaching, and basically, she said, “What do I have to pay you to do this?”. I sat on it and decided to move forward and gave both of us an out, were it not to be aligned.
Turns out, it was majorly aligned, and again, she was thrilled with the results and so was I. Then, along came a guy I went on one date with 6 years ago, who asked me to coach him as he was in a time of struggle. He shared, “I don’t even know what it feels like to be happy in my life or business anymore”. After 5 sessions, his life and company had turned around, he “felt happy for the first time in years”, and his revenue was up 250%. It’s likely that you can guess… I now coach people, having about 3-6 active clients at a time.
With that wind in my sails, I decided to unearth an idea I’d had and mapped out for years: a group coaching program for people who want to run businesses that don’t run them. I pulled out my copious notes, made adjustments, and within a month, had created the entire program and launched enrollment in November. Come January, the program will begin for a whole year with real people! This truly was the year of letting things unfold, taking action on them, and pushing myself outside of my own limitations and resistances.
Still April, I sat down to determine what would be the most impactful use of my time. This is an important exercise for anyone like me who has multiple plates in the air all the time. Some things that came up were audience growth and getting super-precise on my messaging as I worked towards my next book publishing. So, I decided to scrimmage before the big game (so to speak) when I’ll do a media tour: I set out to be a guest on 30 podcasts.
A simple Facebook post turned into 289 comments and 60 podcasts booked in 60 days. Just the rehearsal I needed as well as a great way to start to see which podcasts really moved the needle (I wrote a whole piece here on this should you want to know the mechanics of how to do this for yourself). Those also parlayed into a few major ones, like Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger podcast that will release 2 days before Christmas to an audience of about 1M, and a guest appearance in Jesse Itzler’s mastermind as a paid expert speaker…the audio of which I turned into a resource on my website (double-win)!
Another win: being on the podcast of a former Shark Tank company. The host told me afterward that she thought my work would be all fluff but ended up taking more notes on my episode than any before and was totally blown away. It’s moments like that which remind me that we need to put our heads down and do the work, concerning ourselves less with what others are up to if it’s going to cause comparison and doubt.
Somewhere in this period, I went vegan for 2 months as an experiment. I certainly felt good (not tremendously different since I eat relatively healthily anyway) but gave it up once international travel came up again as it was near impossible to eat vegan in Cuba.
After hosting a high school friend for the weekend, it was off to the nicest resort I’ve ever stayed in: Rosewood Mayakoba in Mexico for a summit and pampering. I’m forever holding every place up to the standard of this one… no bueno.
After a couple of weeks back home to work, reconnect with friends, and decompress, we planned a trip with my parents (now residents of Panama) to meet up in Cuba. Fortunately for us, we went mere days before Trump imposed greater restrictions on travel and visas there. We had a great time learning salsa, touring Hemingway history, driving in classic cars, drinking mojitos, learning about the complicated history, and taking in the beauty of Havana. One thing I’ve been working on as I grow older and establish more and more of a life outside of my nuclear family is to find ways to connect with them even though we live all over the world. Admittedly, it doesn’t always come naturally to me, but trips like this help to remind me that we can’t characterize people, especially family, by how we knew them when we last spent the most time together. So, in this case, high school. I tend to get stuck in my mind seeing myself as 18-year-old me and they as themselves 17 years ago…which isn’t fair to either of us. So, real-life experience helps to chip away at that fable.
We returned home for a wedding and soon met the brother of a dear friend who offered to host a sound bath and cacao ceremony in our living room for us and 6 friends. It was one of the most memorable experiences we’ve had in our home, and provided deeper confirmation for me to continue fearlessly to do the work I’m doing.
Next up, a welcomed visit from my aunt and cousin followed by some initial explorations of lake living. Brendan grew up in Cape Cod on the ocean, and the one thing Atlanta doesn’t have is water in the city. So we began a many-month adventure to learn about second homes on lakes in Georgia. For a while it seemed quite likely we’d bite, but ultimately tabled it.
Next, I headed to my tri-annual Emory board meeting, and after a cumulative 13 years on various boards for the school, this time on the school’s primary board, I resigned. I came to a place of wanting to slough off that which didn’t feel additive and this was a clear choice. Fellow board members chuckled because I made the decision during the meeting, walked up to the staffer in charge during lunch, shared my resignation, said a few goodbyes, and departed. Quick and painless, feeling no need to drag it out.
Never afraid of a disagreeable climate, we drove to Charleston in the sweltering heat of June to catch up with friends. Little did I know, this set in motion a week of leadup to Brendan’s proposal. Subsequently, he traveled to 5 cities that week, and about 1/3 of his suitcase was filled with crystals, sage, and other items he’d use as part of our engagement journey days later.
Rather than try to recreate it, here’s the post I shared a couple of days after:
We’re engaged! On Friday, June 21st, a day symbolizing both the day of the month we met as well as the Solstice (a day of light and regeneration), Brendan lured me to the US Capital for “a private tour with the Senate minority leader”. Admittedly, I wasn’t that into the idea and almost opted out to do some work…but he won me over with a rousing speech about Congress and Government process.
As we arrived, passed through security, got our credentials, and headed up to Senator Schumer’s office, we were told “the tour is on the balcony”. As we were escorted out to his private balcony, overlooking the National Mall and Washington Monument, Brendan grabbed my hands, got on 2 knees (not 1), and asked me to marry him. And, spoiler alert, I said “yes”!
I feel incredibly grateful to have met this man almost 3 years ago in Portland, Oregon (thanks Breakout!). We were in a small group conversation and when he first spoke, I remember my first thought was, “that’s an incredible human”. I could feel his energy, it had nothing to do with his words.
We had several connected conversations that weekend that led to our first date in LA immediately after. When the 2 days in LA ended, I moved my ring from my right hand to my left ring finger, as though I had a premonition that this would one day be the outcome.
That being said, I never wanted to be married, and it was a huge area of growth for me in our relationship to unwind old, self-imposed identities, and instead, be willing to allow this beautiful soul to love me and help me chip away at my walls and blind spots.
I used to allow an incomplete kind of love into my life because it’s all I knew and thought I deserved. And then I met Brendan and wondered how it could be possible that such a huge-hearted, beautiful-spirited man could exist and love me so wholly. And yet, he continued to share more of himself and offer patience and grace as I grew and let him in more and more. Together, we never cease to laugh, adventure, support, and grow. And now, we celebrate the beginning of a lifetime of that and more!
We went from there to a day full of beautiful surprises like lunch with my friend who helped him design and source the ring and a night in St. Michaels, Maryland. We woke up the next morning to my favorite part of the engagement experience: we laid out the crystals he’d lugged, saged away any of our old energy, and I guided us in a visualization about our future together.
A week or two passed for us to let it set in, and we were headed to The Cape for the 4th of July. I tell Brendan often that I’m grateful he’s from such a charming place where we love to go and visit. There are few places more picturesque and Americana than Cape Cod over July 4th. A week and a half there fishing, boating, walking on the beach, working, and celebrating the soon-to-be in-laws’ 45th wedding anniversary, we came home for a short stint before heading to celebrate a milestone anniversary of my parents: 50 years! I mean, holy shit, that’s a long time…
They decided to bring the family together in St. Kitts, so we took an overnight pitstop in Puerto Rico to connect with an old friend and see what’s it like 2 years after Hurricane Maria (for the record: San Juan is fully operational and a great place to spend some tourism dollars). Afterward, we jetted to St. Kitts for a week of quality time with the family, which in my family means ATV tours, snorkeling, jet-skiing, and a rainforest tour.
The introvert in me was ready for some solo time, but, instead, we greeted Brendan’s parents at the ATL airport upon landing from St. Kitts to immediately go check out lake houses again. A whirlwind weekend of exploring, capped off by a baby shower and hosting a gathering at our house for people who want to learn about visiting Cuba. Because why not throw a couple more things in?? But seriously, I was at the end of my energetic rope after all of that and reminded myself to create better boundaries to protect my well-being.
And…if that weren’t enough travel or family time, a week later we headed back to Cape Cod because it’s Brendan’s favorite in August. Plus, my parents were in Rhode Island with friends, so we finally gathered them up and had the parents meet after almost 3 years. Fortunately, they all love golf, so they loved each other.
I departed The Cape early to head to Rhode Island to meet some girlfriends in Newport for a gorgeous weekend. This trip reminded me that no matter how much time passes, growth areas don’t improve unless you work on them. I recall having insecurities flare up during this trip where I felt left out, like I was back in grade school, but hilariously, not because anyone actually was. It was a story I was telling myself, then allowing to perpetuate and find evidence to support.
That was followed up by a few days in Atlanta for work and rest, then off to Deep Creek Lake, Maryland to spend the weekend with my best friend since age 10. It’s amazing to see someone grow and evolve over 25 years and get to spend real quality time with her family now.
Next, we were invited to try an experience that was new to both of us: an authentic sweat lodge and plant medicine experience in North Georgia. My expectation was that it would be like a sauna. I was wrong. It was 2 hours of the most intense darkness, heat, and intensity I’ve ever felt. Dripping with sweat as I finally exited, I was deeply impressed with my ability to withstand it and struggle much less than I’d initially anticipated upon first moments of the experience. We all have much more strength within than we typically access, and moments like these are reminders of that. My intention and hope were to meet my spirit guides and learn more about them. I began to connect, but still have a ways to go!
That experience got me in a clear headspace to co-host my first day-long retreat at Serenbe, an idyllic Truman-Show-like community south of Atlanta. I used the momentum of the feedback from the participants to continue to teach in these ways.
After that weekend, I began to see an energy healer and revisit an acupuncturist. I tend to be one part believer, one part skeptic (makes sense since I think I’m here as a bridge between the spiritual and earthly, so understanding both perspectives is critical). Did either ‘work’? Up to interpretation…
I was thrilled to get a call from the press team for Visa, who invited me to do a similar job as I had done the year prior for Chase: to go to DC and be their on-site correspondent for their women’s entrepreneurship event: She’s Next. I walked away feeling so high from that, noting times like this when my energy spikes, meaning I need to invest more into those activities.
Back in Atlanta a couple of days later, Brendan and I were invited to dinner at a summer camp about an hour away. We love the host so we didn’t ask questions. We were blown away to discover that we were having dinner with 8 people, in a horshoecrap-shaped treehouse, with Zac Brown (the musician), fed by his private chef, and that he’d teach us to throw axes and share his newly released album with us and tell us the backstories. It was an unforgettable night!
October came around, and we flew to Tulsa, Oklahoma for Breakout: the group/event where we’d met almost exactly 3 years before (but in Portland, Oregon). It was a great weekend of learning, challenging conversations, friendship, and line dancing!
I came home just in time for an unpleasant reality: jury duty. It was my third time to be called, but never in this county. Naively, I assumed it would be like the first two where I was out by lunch. Not this time because I was called, and it was a murder trial. 11 hours later, I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t selected, as carrying the weight of someone’s fate and another family’s justice in my hands was not something I was prepared to do. The weight of that experience stayed with me for a long while as it was one more reminder about how much I feel compelled to play a role in improving our broken criminal “justice” system. I reached out to several more organizations that support those who are incarcerated or are returning citizens by teaching life and business skills. Sadly, I was rejected by all of them for not being local or their being at capacity. If you know of one, holler!
Then began a string of dance practices to learn a traditional Indian dance that I’d soon be performing for my friend’s wedding in India (where subsequently, I’m writing this from now). I felt nervous as I didn’t want to do a poor or insensitive job of performing this dance! Fortunately, old cheerleader me came back to life and got it down pat!
October 21st rolled around and Brendan and I celebrated 3 years together. Not wanting to go far, but wanting to commemorate it, we drove to the mountains for a weekend, capped off with a favorite of mine (not his): outlet shopping!
The next day, I headed to a meeting at a film studio in Atlanta to have one of the most memorable meetings of my life: the president of the studio saw my series with Deepak and loved it. She said she wants to create a tv or streaming show with me and we are now in the very early stages of exploring that! I will never forget driving home and feeling elated…whereas in the meeting I looked neutral because I couldn’t process this fast enough… it felt surreal!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a tv lover, and more so, an admirer of Oprah and that format. I’m deeply curious and, therefore, love to ask questions and get to the heart of the matter. With all the interviews I’ve done over the last 18 months, I’ve become quite comfortable doing so. She saw that and said that she sees me ‘taking over the Oprah lane’. Life. Made. She asked me to make a pitch deck for the show concepts. Having never done that, I naturally said “yes”. 2 days later she had 2 decks on her desk and we moved to the next step! Here’s to seeing that show as a reality on next year’s update!
Brendan and I started getting the itch to look at what the Atlanta housing market is like (we’re renting out my house in Decatur currently…cash flow!) and renting our current spot while Brendan was getting to know the city). A new favorite Sunday activity: open houses. Unimpressed with the options, we began to consider building from the ground up. In research mode as we speak (or, as we read, in this case).
November arrives and we fly back to DC, 4 months after being engaged there, to gather local friends for a beautiful party hosted by my aunt and uncle.
A couple of fundraisers later, it’s our birthdays, and we’re ringing in another rotation around the sun! Oh, and thanks to Brendan’s working formerly in the Obama administration, we got to meet him!
And, because I’ve delayed the writing of this, another month has passed and we’ve traveled to Colombia and Panama for Thanksgiving, then 3 days later, off to India for 2 weeks, where you find me now, in Kerala, at an ayurvedic retreat center.
As I work through the chronological happenings and learnings of the year in review, there are many other elements that don’t naturally find a home. So allow me to move to those reflections next:
On friendships: the older I get, the more energetically-introverted I become, meaning that I need more time to myself, as well as much prefer 1-on-1 and smaller group environments to connect more intentionally and deeply. Because of this, some friendships change, allowing for space for others to emerge. I’ve been inviting in a new crop of friends whose wisdom and interest in spiritual and personal development mirrors mine. I’ve been grateful to receive that abundantly which has taught me so much (including but not limited to some abilities I have in reiki, energy work, and card reading)!
Two of them emerged to pull me out of my comfort zone and co-host a workshop and a retreat with me. I felt really nervous going into them: that I wouldn’t be able to carry my weight and that I’d have little to offer the participants. They helped me move through that and lovingly nudged me into doing things for the first time like leading a guided visualization for 20 women, bringing some to tears. I walked away really proud of myself for facing that fear, and really grateful to them for allowing me to borrow confidence again until I could see it for myself.
I also cheered on so many milestones for friends this year: births, marriages, engagements, books published, career highs, and the like!
On luxuries: I’m all about balance in life and have come to realize that pampering myself in certain ways has become an extension of self-love and care. So, much like in years past, I’ve kept up my lash extensions, massages (even some at home), and house cleanings!
On fitness: Our new-ish home location is in Midtown Atlanta near the park, which has been a game-changer for more walking and less driving. That has been a fitness win along with yoga and Jillian Michaels’ app which I started to do religiously in my room every morning (a miracle for me since fitness tends to fall to the wayside).
On business: With Network Under 40, I said goodbye to both Nashville and Baltimore directors and brought on some fresh new faces to take over! I handed off almost all of the day-to-day responsibilities to others on the team and freed myself up for other projects. I created a virtual course to teach others the step-by-step methods I’ve used to host and grow a profitable networking events side hustle so others can do it for themselves as well as celebrated 8 years in business (going on 9 soon).
For Equitable Payments, my credit card processing business, if you’d told me 10 (almost 11) years ago when I started this company with my twin brother that in years 6-10, I’d spend about 1-2 hours/week on it and make more than I did when I spent full time on it, I’d be as shocked as you probably are reading that. Yet, it’s true. And it’s been such a gift to enjoy both the fruits of those 6+ years of hard work as well as to have them underpin me so I’ve been able to have much less fear and stress in launching all of my other subsequent projects.
For Finance Whiz Kids, this book still remains something near and dear to me although it never picked up steam as I’d hoped. It continues to sell in limited quantities, and I remain optimistic that I and/or others will continue to teach future generations sound financial habits.
On cultural activities: Got in a good variety this year including ‘Drunk Shakespeare’ (thanks sister-in-law for that gift!), modern dance performance with my friend as choreographer, Mariah Carey concert,
courtside at the Hawks (3x), a trip to the zoo (where I realized that I don’t like them…I just feel bad for the animals), stand up comedy show, Atlanta United soccer game, Yayoi Kusama: infinity mirrors exhibit, Oklahoma State Fair (all hail everything fried), and a first trip to a Christmas tree farm (leaving with no tree).
On additional lessons:
As I’ve leaned deeply into my life as an online educator and coach teaching folks how to live their life by design, build a business to fund it, and a network to support it…there have been many times where I’ve doubted, wondered why I’m working so hard when I could just coast off my other businesses’ income, when I compare myself to those who are doing it ‘better’ or for a bigger audience, or who seem to have their shit totally together and I wonder why I’m even trying. But then I get reassurance from coaching clients, total internet strangers, or people whom I know and had no idea they were paying attention, and that gives me a second wind to keep pushing. Plus, when I look back, I realize how much I’ve grown and how far I’ve come in general, but specifically in this work in the last 2 years.
Plus, I tend to find that momentum and ease are two things that signal you’re in the right place. I don’t mean to give the impression that things will always be easy, but that things will click and you’ll go with the current, not against it, when you’re in the right place. That’s how this work has felt as a whole, and it’s my work to overcome the limiting beliefs, insecurities, doubts, and fears. Plus, the more I work with clients, the more it gives me positive stress to be at my best for them.
And on that note, while external confirmations don’t really matter, here’s a few that were exciting: I was featured in Cosmopolitan magazine, Inc, Forbes, and several other publications.
I was reminded just as much this year as other years that my internal guidance system speaks via my intuition, and I need to trust it. It has never steered me wrong, but when I doubt it, things go awry.
I’ve never felt more fearless and also, still have much to tackle in this arena.
I learned through much of the turnover on my teams that a trigger for me is feeling misunderstood, which goes deep into my childhood.
I’ve learned the value of margin in my schedule. Where once I chose to pack it to the brim, now I much prefer gaps and spaces and open blocks and unplanned evenings wherever possible. I feel it allows for the natural energies and happenings of life to emerge rather than feel forced or overdone.
Animals are healing and one of the primary, yet simple, highlights of my year was time cuddling with my cat, Chairman Meow.
I incorporated a new morning routine when I’m home: post to IG and scroll the news while my brain turns on, brush teeth, gratitude and appreciation journal, meditate, drink water, 7 minute Jillian Michaels app workout. I’ve felt more energized as a result.
Speaking of: I’m learning more and more through practice that energy is the thing I care to manage even more than my time. So, I choose how, where, and with whom I spend my time more carefully so as to protect my energy.
I learned a new skill: website design (not sure I can technically call it that since everything is so plug-and-play now) but hell, it’s beautiful!
I’ve learned a lot about the growth that happens uniquely in a loving partnership. That and how my perception of my own identity can and should shift (isn’t stagnant) and that, with the right partner, you can be lovingly confronted with your shortcomings and areas for growth. I’ve also learned that freedom is not lost in relationship (once a major fear).
Straight from my journal: “Do the things you love and that excite you, not seeking a specific outcome but because you believe in them and they light you up.”
“You never know who is watching, nor do things happen when you’d expect or on your timeline. Trust, be patient, do the work.”
While I’ve been a believer in the law of attraction and that our thoughts become our reality, I’d never fully grasped before the concept that when you doubt the thing you’re seeking to create, that doubt energy is what is matched. So, I began to notice those times when I wanted something and tried to feel and speak it into existence but realized that my doubt was overpowering it.
You never know where people will go and grow and how relationships will evolve. I have a million examples of this, but one is that now my first business mentor, now not only has me on his board, but had me speak and teach his MBA students about entrepreneurship. It felt like such a beautiful full-circle moment.
Seems basic, but I continue to remind myself that we are all of equal value: none lesser, none more. The latter here is tougher for me as someone who’s historically struggled with the narrative that ‘I’m not good enough’, generally thinking others were better.
With maturity (and meditation) I’m lightyears less emotionally reactive than I used to be. This plays out with work stress and family stress the most.
I’ve began to crack beneath the surface of perfectionism and realize that it’s actually a shield that blocks me from feeling all sorts of emotions that, when you boil it down, block love, because it’s imperfect. Perfectionism is really an excuse to not expose ourselves fully.
I continue to see that goals and priorities will change, but values don’t. I remain steadfast in mine (freedom, connection, generosity, learning/growth) and do regular self-checks to be sure my actions and how I spend my time are aligned with them.
Mantras for me:
-Process over progress.
-Inputs over outcomes.
-More heart, less head.
-Self-care is not selfish.
I continue to get more comfortable with discomfort and ambiguity and get clearer that uncertainty is the only certainty.
NOW is it. Nothing else exists. The more we can be here now, and raise our vibes (aka joy, fun, love, etc), that’s the real goal!
Putting my value into outside factors like accolades, titles, and money will never be fulfilling.
Share what I have (ideas, time, love, resources). I will likely think it’s way less valuable than the person who needs it does.
Stop searching externally for answers. They exist within us. It’s about tapping into them. Therein lies the work.
Celebrate small wins and ask myself “How would historic me feel about me today?”
You never know how the seeds you’re planting will grow, but do it anyway.
Now is just as good a time as any. When we wait for the ‘right time’, we’re usually making excuses and stalling. So, start!
We usually need to see models of what we desire to do, so collect people who are doing cool shit to huddle up around you.
All aspects of life occur in seasons, some seasons are for rest and rejuvenation, and others are for growth and blossoming.
My holding myself back is my withholding that which someone needs from me (aka I’m robbing them by selfishly staying small).
The things that spark jealousy are those that I want for myself, so flip the feeling to one that inspires me to work towards it.
Winners do quit…strategically. Saying “no” is important.
Simple pleasures really are the greatest ones. When I look back at my journal, so much of it is filled with appreciation for quality time with friends and loved ones, my pet, books, breezes, sharing/giving, and nature.
Be kinder to myself. I would never let someone else talk to me the way I talk to myself.
There is a difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowing something doesn’t mean you’ve truly embodied it.
Like attracts like, so take a look at your circumstances to understand what’s going on internally.
35 by the numbers:
-35 books read
-7 countries visited
-119 days traveled
-80+ speaking engagements and media opportunities (1 of which was my first time sharing the stage with Brendan!)
-Countless dinner parties, book salons, and gatherings hosted in our home
-More saved and earned than any year before
-Thousands of connections catalyzed to help bring out the best in others
-41 articles written and interviews conducted
-Countless memories (unless you want to count out those listed in this blog post!)
If you’ve read all the way to the end, thank you and cheers to the best year yet for all of us!