Hard to believe that 2018 is nearly in our rear-view mirror. This year proved to be one of my life’s most challenging years yet. But, there is no growth without resistance, and for all of the challenging moments, there has been some significant professional and personal growth. I’ve learned a lot. More than I could ever put in a single blog post, but that won’t stop me from trying.
After some reflection, here are 18 lessons that I learned in 2018:
1. Practical Thinking: forget positive vs. negative
The greatest paradigm shift for me in 2018 — and maybe in my entire life — was the realization that life is a lot more bearable when you refrain from looking at every situation as either positive or negative. Instead, try looking at the world through the lens of practicality: acknowledge circumstances for how they are, determine if you can or should change them, then take the appropriate action; leave the positive or negative emotions aside.
2. Biases and Distortions: how to become your own worst enemy
Part of seeing the world more practically means coming to know your own inherent biases and distortions (see here). Our psyche is shaped by our experiences and our perception of them. You’d be surprised how easily we can be deceived by our own skewed perceptions. Next time you encounter a challenge, are asked to make a decision, or even look in the mirror, consider the following: what if my perception of the situation (and subsequently, of myself in that situation) is off?
3. Perseverance: I am capable of so much more than I know
In 2018 I did a 20-mile day hike of the Grand Canyon, survived a dust storm exposed on top of a mountain, took substantial steps toward tackling mental health, traveled to new countries, and learned more on the job than I could have ever imagined for myself. I learned that I am capable of so much more than I could have ever believed — and so are YOU.
4. Finding Peace: sometimes you have to be okay with things that don’t seem “okay”
I spent much of 2018 (and 2017) longing to be home, regretting failed relationships/friendships, and missing loved ones. That is, until it finally hit me: home will always be there, my loved ones know that they are loved, and former friends/colleagues/significant others have undoubtedly moved on and are living their lives (and I presume they are living them contently as well). All of this might not give me “happiness”, but it gives me much peace, and there is comfort in that.
5. Eighteen Months: you can’t get comfortable if you’re always moving
If you look at my resume, you will notice a trend: I have been at all of my previous employers for just one year/season. Upon completing each of those terms, I immediately followed my homesick heart back home to Florida, only to be swept away from home once again by my professional ambitions. It was a recurring cycle. Since joining the Indians, I have missed home in the same vain. But, it was roughly halfway through 2018, at the year and a half mark of my tenure with the Tribe in Arizona, that I started to feel acclimated. I just needed time (a lot of it).
7. Suffering: a window through which to see the world
Hardships and suffering provide us the opportunity to see and understand the world in ways which we rarely do unless otherwise challenged. Suffering and coping requires us to reflect, introspect, and re-evaluate the world and our place in it. Struggle and adversity are inevitable pieces in the puzzle of life; they are vital parts of personal development as well.
7. Learning: the ego is the ultimate roadblock to learning
To learn from the best, you can’t be afraid or intimidated to work for or alongside them.
8. Training: my Anti-Depressant
People often insinuate how insane they think I am because of how much time, effort, and energy I commit to my own training. In reality, though, it is lifting, running, biking, etc. that actually keeps me sane. Thus, training is my one and only non-negotiable. If you want me to be at my best, I have to get it in.
9. Do Not Disturb: take an hour to turn the notifications off
It’s amazing how loud the world can be, even when you’re all alone. I’ve been told by family, friends, and colleagues to take more time for myself. Well, sometimes I find that challenging. That is why I have learned to take my “me time” during my training sessions. Since I train every day for 1-2 hours (depending on the time of year), I know that if I put my phone on “Do Not Disturb”, I can always get some “me time” each day.
10. Personal Development: it goes beyond having a social life
While I may spend most of my waking ours at work or doing work from home, I have learned that personal development isn’t about “getting out there” and making friends. In 2018 I have worked very hard to be a better son, brother, and confidant. I sincerely hope that I’ve made progress in these areas.
11. Vulnerability: let it unite us
If nothing else, you and I have one thing in common: we are vulnerable. By opening up in 2018 about my lifelong struggle with depression, I was shocked to learn just how empathetic and compassionate people are. I can’t believe how much support I have recieved in the days since sharing my challenges. What was more surprising was how many people then shared with me their own struggles, their own insecurities, stories of their friends and family who have struggled. Sometimes, just the look in their eyes as they shook my hand told me just as much without them having to say a word: they themselves have come to know hard times.
We are all vulnerable. It is in our shared vulnerability where we can ultimately be united, in spite of any differences we might have.
12. Investing in Others: the key to mental and professional health
If I have learned anything about mental and professional health in 2018 that is worth sharing, it is that high-level, highly-functioning individuals constantly invest in other people.
13. Responsibility: be accountable for more than just yourself
Having a dog has made me realize something: it is damn hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re responsible for another living being. Don’t have a spouse, child, or pet? Go coach, train, or serve other people in some way. Your own problems seem to dwindle when you live your life to serve others.
14. Transparency: I’d rather be a real person than a “guru”
Social media makes it quite easy to portray yourself in whatever light you please. But, you know what? Life is messy. I am not perfect. I am very much still trying to learn and develop personally and professionally. To be honest, sometimes I still have no idea what I am doing with my life. Oh, and I’m a major dork too. So, if I am going to put myself out there on social media, I am going to be real; I am going to be me.
15, Mentors: if you want to learn, there will be people there to teach you
If you want to learn from others, there will always be opportunities to develop.
16. The Battle: it must be fought every. single. day.
I should know better by now, but sometimes I still fall prey to naivete: there are mornings that I wake up surprised that I still feel hollow, lost, alone, resentful, unhappy… I guess sometimes I just think I’ve won the fight against depression and that I am going to wake up fulfilled and some kind of blissful. This year I’ve realized, though, that the battle must be fought daily. The second I stop focusing my efforts on getting better, growing and finding peace with my life — well, those are the times I struggle the most. We didn’t ask for this, the hardship and struggle. But, they are there, and we must take them head on.
17. Work-Life Balance: the mental, the physical, the emotional
I have yet to find a “work-life balance” in terms of hours. But, I have found that to stay balanced, I must always be cognizant of where I stand physically, mentally, and emotionally. In 2018, I have learned that I am at my weakest and most vulnerable emotionally when my physical and mental reserves are drained. Now that I know this, my goal is to spend 2019 keeping my body and mind in check; if I feel that I am overtaxing either, I will work to find the appropriate strategies that afford me recuperation and recovery.
18. Rebirth: it’s never too late to start again
In 2018 I learned the greatest lesson of them all: I found out who I am.