This is a longer than usual blog post just to let you know in advance.
In 1992 I graduated from college. After a summer serving at Young Life camps, I had a couple of job offers that were not that exciting to me. I also had a job offer doing marketing for Vail Ski Resort. It was not a high paying job but it offered me an opportunity to leave California.
I always had a fascination with Colorado and Washington. It was a dream of freedom to live a fully charged life that drew me to these states. I had not yet visited either of them. But, I was drawn to them and so I chose the uncertainty and adventure of moving to Colorado.
After a day and half of the road. I was heading East on I-70 just outside of Grand Junction starting my climb into the Rockies. I saw the Colorado River rushing down the mountain and pulled over at a scenic overlook. I got out of my car, looked at the river and the beautiful mountains and took a big deep breath of fresh Colorado air. Then I burst into tears.
I was overwhelmed with freedom. I was overwhelmed with knowing that I took a proverbial Road Less Traveled and was starting my life as a full adult. It scared the crap out of me.
And it excited me.
I sat on the hood of my car and reflected on what I was doing. And, what I chose not to do by taking a traditional job. It was then that I started to also understand that value of journaling and reflection as a strategy to grow in all areas of my life.
Here are 10 things I learned in 2020
1. Our expectations can get shattered
In 2019 I talked and shared about the new Roaring 20’s. I remember reading books like The Great Gatsby with all the flapper girls and awesome suits for men. I thought, this is our time now. Our new 20’s with so many advancements happening in equality, technology, globalization and connection. It was going to be an amazing decade!
Then, our 2020 hit. And, well, as you know, it hit pretty hard.
Covid-19, lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, lack of toilet paper at the grocery store. I mean seriously. Who expected this?!?!
Then, we moved into the election here in the US. Is it just me or does each election just seem to bring out more and more of the worst in people. I am saddened by how much anger, arguing, bitterness and just plain ugliness there is between people.
So, our expectations can get shattered. It has happened to me in my life more than once. Remember the recession? Yeah, that left a huge bruise! But, the more I think about expectations being shattered, the more I realize that life is filled with unexpected things.
I don’t say this to be negative. I say this to be prepared. Life is filled with unexpected outcomes.
2. Kindness is still meaningful
Covid-19 affected so many people. It was not just the medical issues but also financial, mental health being isolated, lives were changed dramatically and our world seemed to be totally upside down.
During this time, kindness, empathy and understanding has been the best currency. People needed it more than ever. When we want to be influential. When we want to be caring. Kindness still wins the day. Remember, people don’t remember what you say, they remember how you made them feel.
I need to remember this more in my day-to-day life and this year was a great reminder for me.
3. Family First
Beyond Covid, I had a really hard year. Look at #8 below.
As I spent more time at home daily with my family, I was reminded of how grateful I am for my family. I have been fortunate to have a healthy, thriving marriage with Meghan. And, we have 5 kids who we adore, love to spend time with and they truly are our favorite people. When life changes, when we are faced with challenges, when stress is at a high in our lives, having people is of utmost importance.
Whether you have blood family or friends that are more like your family, I learned at an even deeper level this year the value and importance of family. I recently listened to a podcast where the guest was on the flight that landed in the Hudson River.
He shared how his life changed when faced with a life and death situation. He recalled how, in those moments of what seemed like certain death, he thought of his family and now his wealth. He thought of his last conversations with his loved ones and not the growth of his company.
For me, 2020 was a year to remember the people, our impact with them and their memories with me are the true collateral of a successful life.
4. Be Aware and Intentional about Memories
During the recession in 2010, we had to sell our beautiful, dream home and downsize. Our investments were heavily in real estate and as you know, that was a bad time for real estate.
We moved out of our home and were not yet sure where we were going to live. We did not know if we would be able to buy a home or how our situation with a current business was going to play out. So, we moved into an apartment.
It was a huge low for me in my life. I was 40 years old and moved my family of 6 (Zoey wasn’t born yet) into an apartment. I felt like I failed my family and I was under tremendous stress and uncertainty.
While we were in that apartment for 3 months, we took advantage of using the indoor racquetball court to play dodgeball with our family. I can honestly say that my brain was always somewhere else but it was something we could do as a family without spending money. It was a very intense and stressful time for me.
But, our kids still look back on that time with great memories. They remember that time as a lot of fun because of dodgeball. They don’t remember the tiny apartment. They don’t remember sharing rooms or having really noisy neighbors. They remember having a great time, laughing, competing and having a great family time.
I am grateful that I had this experience with my family because it prepared me for 2020 and the Covid-19 caused lockdown. Meghan and I looked again to make memories.
We created Friday Night Baseball and played Wiffle Ball in our front yard every Friday night. We followed it with pizza and made it a weekly routine. We are not a baseball family. But, playing Wiffle Ball allowed us to get out of the house together as a family, play together, laugh together and create great memories during a bad season.
We had Mario Kart tournaments, binged TV shows, play games and laughed a lot.
Memories are for our future selves. I learned (again) that we have opportunities to make great memories. Use your time well my friends.
5. Sleep Matters
My desire to be excellent and a high performer led me to a false understanding of sleep. I used to think less sleep gave me more time to work on my businesses and myself.
It did not.
It made me tired and it made me less sharp when I needed to focus.
It also contributed to poor brain chemicals that did not serve me well.
Sleep improves productivity.
Sleep improves the immune system.
Sleep gives you a better mood.
My sleep issues contributed to weight gain, low dopamine levels, low serotonin levels and increased my bad cholesterol. I took sleep for granted and thought I was perfectly fine with little sleep because it gave me more hours to be productive.
Take sleep seriously. You need it. Your life needs it. Your family needs you to be rested, healthy and full of energy. It makes you a better person.
6. God hides things for our benefit
“It is the glory of God to conceal things,
but the glory of kings is to search things out.”
My heart here is to share something I learned this year. I am not a preacher. I am not a Bible scholar. I am a man that tries to learn how to love God and live my life the best I can for Him.
I often get mad at God because He is not tangible. I get mad because I don’t understand His ways. I get mad because I don’t know what to do sometimes (often).
When I read this verse, it gave me a new perspective on my walk with God. I am not sure why I call it a walk. It’s usually much more of a combination of wrestling, complaining, worshiping and seeking.
This verse gave me peace that my seeking is part of God’s plan. I still don’t always like it. But, I don’t feel like I am a special type of broken anymore.
7. People Remember How you Make The Feel
I have heard this expression a lot. I have said this expression a lot to my kids.
Sometimes I really suck at it.
This year I learned how true this and learned how much I can really suck at it.
I want to do this SO MUCH better in the future
8. Ask for Help When You Need It
I asked for help this year. I needed help and I was able to get it.
I needed support from my wife and understanding from my kids. I needed to reach out to my family for the freedom to be needy. I know that may sound strange to some of you.
For me, I never thought I could be needy. I didn’t think I was allowed to be the one that needed help. I was supposed to be the one that helped others, especially my family.
My lack of sleep, my high stress and my inability to truly work through my fears led me to need help with anxiety and depression. It was very humbling. It was very scary for me. I expected to be judged. I expected to lose opportunities in business. I expected to have a scarlet letter as a weak person or someone who was unstable.
I mostly experienced the opposite. I can’t say I was totally free from judgement. That would be a lie.
I spent a lot of years fighting on my own. I spent a lot of years trying to overcome challenges that I now know, I could never overcome on my own. I needed professional help and once I received it, I overcame challenges.
If you struggle with mental illness like depression, anxiety or addiction, please ask for help. I was amazed at learning about medical issues with my brain chemicals that were the cause of my challenges. I was able to get medical help for something I thought was a personal problem.
9. Community Matters AND You Need to Strengthen Yourself
Both are equally important.
To be honest, this is something I have been learning over the past decade. But, I think it came more into focus this year.
Not all of you know my story. I share details about my story, challenges and learnings in the Connect Your Dots members program.
Growing up, my dad was an abusive alcoholic. It seemed, his job was to make my life more difficult than to help me navigate it successfully.
I did not have a good image of who a dad was or who a dad was supposed to be. My dad was someone I needed to protect myself from and not someone who would lead me, guide me, protect me and be in my corner.
At the beginning of my 3rd year of college, I faced a huge challenge. I was on the soccer team and I was playing extremely well. Prior to pre-season training starting with our coach, we had a team only retreat to the beach where we trained and got in shape after a long summer of not playing as much soccer.
During our pre-season training, I was playing with excellence. My touch was great, my fitness was excellent and I was in a state of flow. I knew it and I believe my teammates knew it.
When we finished our pre-season at the beach, we headed to campus to start training with our coach. On the first day, our coach pulled me aside and told me that I shouldn’t expect to play very much that year. I didn’t know why he said it or why he felt that way. I was devastated.
I ran through my mind the previous year. As a freshman and sophomore I led the team in assists and had a decent amount of goals too. I was a positive contributor to the team. But, for some reason, my coach believed that I was no longer good enough to be a starter on the team.
Early in our season, freshmen had to “pay their dues” by doing a lot of the setup work and fetching balls. It was common for our coaching staff to say things like, “freshman, go move the goals, everyone else grab some water” or similar instructions.
On our first day of practice my 3rd year my coach said, “Brandon and the freshman, go move the goal. Everyone else get some water.” I had no idea why I was being singled out and treated as a freshman. After 3 days of this treatment, I went and asked my coach what I did and why I was being lumped into the group with the freshman.
I don’t remember the exact answer but it was not an answer that I appreciated or which made sense to me. I felt alone. I felt attacked. I felt lost.
I quit the team.
Soccer was my passion. Soccer has always been my escape from life’s challenges. Soccer was always a place that I excelled and felt like I could be the best version of myself. It was gone.
And, I was the one who removed it from my life. I removed it from my life because I did not know how to strengthen myself during challenges. I removed myself because I had not built a strong support community around me to help me when I needed help.
I “learned” two very unfortunate truths in life that I wish I had never learned. Especially because they were not real truths. They were just truths in my life because I allowed them to become truth and have the power of real truth in my life.
First, that I was alone in life and could only count on me.
Second, things were done against me and not for me. In other words, all hard situations were something to fight against and remove from my life and not something to embrace, learn from and grow.
I missed out on so many opportunities to learn, love and be loved in life because of these “learnings” that I acquired and held on to with passion and grit. It was a very lonely and miserable path that I was on.
But, God is good and God started a process in my life.
He taught me two things that I still struggle with daily but know that I know, that I know, that I know are the new truths.
First, people are the difference in our lives. We were made to be in community. We were made to live in need of others and to help others in need.
In business, we need our relationships to succeed. In our family, we need to support and be supported by them. In life, we are never alone unless we choose to be alone.
Second, every situation in life is an opportunity for us to face our weaknesses and strengthen ourselves. They are all opportunities to grow, learn and become a better, stronger version of ourselves.
This year, more than ever, I learned the power of community. The power of building intentional community with people. Not as a way for self promotion, but when you are part of a community, you have a community of people who will help you, encourage you, and introduce you to others.
I can do a lot better in creating community. I plan to do more in 2021 to intentionally build community. I encourage you to do so too.
10. You Can Always Dig Deeper
Fruit trees love the winter because the winter season is where they get their strength. During a long, cold winter, trees grow their roots. Their roots work harder to go deeper and find nutrients that feed the rest of the tree.
The more they dig deeper, the stronger they are in Spring when they blossom. The deeper the roots, the more healthy the blossoms.
You must dig deeper.
When life gets more challenging, you need to dig deeper.
2020 was a year for me to dig deeper. I am still digging. I know it will pay off. But, the keep is to dig as deep as you need to dig in order to be strong for Spring because Spring is coming.
I know this was long. If you are reading this part that means you have found value in this and for that, I am grateful and happy.
If you are not already doing so, I invited you to join me and 100’s of others in the Connect Your Dots community.
If you would like to apply for a free coaching session with me, please use this link and let’s see if we are a good fit for each other to help you learn better daily habits and live a fully charged life.