The end of thirty-four.
A different year for me; one in which I felt I had lost part of myself and fully laid it to rest.
This part of me is the unabashed version of myself who sees the world with blinding optimism and relentless positivity.
And what I realized is —as one pursues truth with diligence —there is a more integrated version of reality.
It’s not to say I’m still not achingly positive and desperate to see the good in most people, circumstances and challenges:
But I feel more centered.
But I feel more grounded.
But I feel more connected.
Of course, the experience of COVID-19 and seeing the political strife and pain in people’s eyes —as well as feeling it —had a part to play in this.
As the old quote goes:
“Wisdom tells me I am nothing; love tells me I’m everything.”
And so to celebrate another cycle around this dazzling, unpredictable and chaotic world —here are 35 lessons from 35 spins around the sun:
1. The more you learn, the less you know.
This year I read more books, essays, long-form articles and history than ever before and the lesson is obvious: the pursuit of wisdom only increases the awareness of one’s ignorance.
2. The pursuit of self-actualization is everything.
A self-actualized life, as Abraham Maslow called it —is not selfish. In fact, those who are self-actualized take the focus off themselves and are the most altruistic.
3. Success is empty without principles, virtues and fulfillment.
My library is full of books with successful people’s stories —rockstars, entrepreneurs, athletes —who found themselves in the depths of despair after external success.
4. The process is not a means to an end; it is that end.
With our goals —we have our outcomes —those mile markers we have put out in front of us and are striving towards. But what if the process itself was the end we were chasing?
5. Life is best experienced at its contrasts.
Fiercely alive is what I would call the Resist Average podcast if I had to choose a different name —and it means being willing to experience both sides of life at their fullest expression.
6. There is no such thing as a negative emotion.
I’ve said this for years, but this year I felt it. We place labels on our emotions and then beat ourselves up for feeling that way. Instead, what if we realized that no emotion is negative? Rather, it is how we respond, that matters.
7. When we face death; we give ourselves permission to live.
Mortality gives us freedom and reminds you and I that there’s not too much time left. It gives us the clarity and permission we need —to go after it and stop beating ourselves up.
8. Everything matters and nothing matters.
I used to hate the other side of this paradox —and yet I now find freedom inside of it. Do the thing you’re afraid to do. Seriously, what is the worst that could happen?
9. The human spirit is one resilient force.
I’m brought to my knees by the resilience and adaptability of the human spirit —the everyday people who keep going when they’re surrounded by darkness and systematic uncertainty. Thank you; you are my true heroes.
10. Adaptability is the endgame; for all of us.
Our ability to adapt to a higher capacity —physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially —is the endgame. Pairing enough stimulus to expand our comfort zones with recovery is how we get there.
11. You don’t have to monetize every hobby.
Please, let’s have things in our lives we love to do without turning them into side hustles or businesses. I don’t want to monetize mountain biking, trail running, listening to vinyl music or reading philosophy.
12. Solitude is the ultimate hack for growth.
Getting to know who you are —and being able to deal with the inner voice of doubt and uncertainty —to get to the deeper truth of your power and light is an undeniable gift.
13. The ego is creative, incessant and petulant.
She’ll do anything to stop us from our dreams, to keep us safe, stuck and in predictable emotional pain. What I call ego dissolving activities must be a daily practice.
14. The essentialist life takes discipline.
I’m determined to embrace a ‘less is more’ mentality —in every area of life. The common trap of success means that one always needs more, which makes the promise of more time, energy and freedom a false horizon.
15. What if success was not a destination, but a state of being?
This is my framework for success. I am successful —for no other reason that I choose the state of being that defines it for me. We all get to define this, for me it means someone whole, present and engaged with the world.
16. Fun, play, humor and not taking ourselves seriously is magical.
Be weird, unique, different. Choose to have fun when it’s easier to be serious. Listen to your intuition and honor the playful part of who we are that we tend to ignore. What I’ve realized is these not only make us more fulfilled —they increase performance too.
17. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is going through something.
It doesn’t matter how successful they are or how much you aspire to be living a version of their life. The human experience leaves no stone unturned when it comes to hurt, pain, trauma. Don’t forget this.
18. Honoring your emotions means you honor yourself.
Self acceptance is the ability to feel the grips of sadness, anger and pain —and allow yourself to feel them without judging yourself or running away from them.
19. Ambition without alignment leads to dark paths.
In a culture obsessed with ambition, we must be careful. There are countless stories of those who took ambition to the point of delusion and burned their lives to the ground in the process. Yeah, no thanks.
20. Write like a mothefucker; live like one too.
Cheryl Strayed’s writing advice hit home this year —as I read and wrote more than any other time in my life. Write like a motherfucker. If you’re going to do it, why not do it all the way?
21. Who are you trying to impress? Ask yourself.
I asked this question in regard to my goals during COVID-19. I found some of my goals weren’t even mine —I was following someone else’s path for external validation. Ask this question for yourself too.
22. Crisis is a brilliant time for habit change.
The ultimate disrupter, crisis creates new windows to radically change our daily habits and routines. Of course —this works in both ways —the early morning power hour can be replaced with 4:30 PM cocktails and Netflix.
23. You’ll never be as free as you are right now.
I tell this to my clients all the time in regards to chasing their dreams. I’ve worked with tons of creative people this year —musicians, actors and film directors. What I’ve told them is to love this moment. They will never be as free as they are today.
24. Clarity is found on the other side of pain.
There is no other way around this. Pain is not bad, it focuses. It compels discipline. It teaches us lessons. The avoidance of pain leads to suffering and apathy.
25. Push your capacity and feel the rapture of being alive.
Not out of some place of ‘lack’, but rather, of understanding to live fiercely is to go beyond what you think is possible. Run an extra three miles. Sign up for the 20K race. Put yourself out there. Write the screenplay. Make the bold pitch to someone you admire.
26. Social media is dangerous for our mental health.
I’ve read 9 essential books from those who created these platforms and those who study them for a living. Including the documentary of the year, The Social Dilemma. I have never been more concerned for our mental health than I am right now.
27. “Being” —will always be more important than “doing.”
As I coached my groups this year, I asked them: what is more productive —a warm bath or 45 minutes of focused work? A walk in nature, or ten bold pitches to prospects? The answer, of course, is it depends. Honoring your ‘being’ leads to better ‘doing.’
28. You don’t need to work 8-14 hours a day to be successful.
I’m tired of this narrative —and I believe we can all bring our gifts to the world, do engaging work and receive enough resources to live our lives —in three to four hours a day.
29. If you don’t create —you will destroy.
The pain of untapped potential is when we deny our gifts and the things we really want to do for so long that we have no option but to destroy our lives and relationships. All of this energy has to go somewhere.
30. You’re not one funnel away.
Sorry, Russel Brunson —while I love the marketing slogan —no one is one funnel away. From what, exactly? The “arrival” fallacy runs so deep in our culture it is no surprise that people are depressed once they do achieve.
33. Growth is a hot mess on a Saturday night.
As someone who teaches growth, I always tell people —you will experience massive breakthroughs, then contract, then endless plateaus where you wonder what you’re doing and everything in between.
34. There are no ordinary moments.
As told by Dan Millman, this lesson always sticks with me. Some of the best moments of our lives come during ‘ordinary’ times. Be open, present and engaged with life and watch what happens.
35. You already won the goddamn lottery.
There are people who would write us a blank check to experience one day of our lives. They are hung up in hospital beds, they cannot walk. They cannot see, or they have terminal cancer. Gratitude is not a passive practice, it is being brought to your knees by the gift of life. Even when it’s hard.
Well, there are the 35 lessons from this year.
Like you, I have struggled coping with COVID-19, political strife, arguing about masks —and by far the number one issue —the concern for this nation’s mental health.
If you follow me at all, I want to remind you:
I feel fear, doubt, and resistance every day.
But instead of creating a narrative around why this is bad or that I’m doing something wrong —I stay open, ready and willing. I use this to grow and infuse my life with it.
To live fiercely is to face reality head on.
Which of these connected with you?