Reflection and Remembrance on 2015

I’ve been thinking about writing a post like this for the past few days. And honestly, I probably would have done it sooner, had it been easier. I think the most difficult part about looking back and reflecting, is that we tend to think of the evident things, because it’s easy (and has obvious impact). The “I graduated school, got a job, moved to…” sort of things we’ve already shared on our social networks. So why repeat it, you know?

What matters most is finding those nuggets of information that may have not been directly said or shared, but rather learned and understood. It’s the things that may have not made sense at first, but do now. The thoughts we once thought, but may have forgotten. It’s the lessons we’ve learned that have led to change in our lives. That’s what we should be striving to reflect on and remember.

How might one do this?

The simplest and most effective way, for me, is quotes and stories. Here is a list of quotes and stories I’ve compiled from my journal and recalled from my mind — in no particular order.

“Confidence comes in preparation. Some are naturally confident, those who aren’t prepare. That doesn’t make confidence a weakness of yours, just something you have to prepare ahead of time.”

This take-away came from a conversation I had with my mentor in February. Thanks, Mer. I‘ve always seen confidence as a weakness of mine. Now, instead of simply accepting ‘lack of confidence’ as a reason for poor interactions or results, I recognize what I wasn’t ready for. And prepare better for it next time.

“We must never accept a circumstance that we are not completely satisfied with if it does not serve humanity as best as it can. We must seek out better solutions.”

This came to me as a thought in March. So often, we accept problems because we feel that it is “just the way it is” and we don’t even see these things as problems. But then you look at some of the recently started companies that have solved some of the problems we’ve always accepted, which have helped humanity tremendously. It’s a change in frame of mind that I’ve found with this insight. Problems that are most accepted, are just problems in need of better answers.

“In basketball, before you take a game winning shot, you’ve played out all possibilities, practiced, so the result isn’t shocking — but expected. We all have great control over where we will be, in most regard. Should we plan and execute in accordance to our optimistic ideas for the future, it will no longer seem so indefinite.”

This came in May from Peter Thiel’s Zero to One. After graduating in April, thoughts of the future became more and more frequent in my mind. And just like most people, my mind became full of ideas about where I wanted to be. Yet, my future always seemed so indefinite and fueled by a lot of hope — as if the dream would just somehow fall onto my lap. But Thiel framed the future in a way that I never thought to.

Sure, I’m optimistic about the future and I do things that will help get me to where I want to be. But when my future goals seem uncertain, it just means that my present lacks the focus necessary to see the future clearer. If I’m unsure that I’ll be able to nail the game winning shot in a year, I’m just not practicing enough. And simply acknowledging this thought as “over-analyzing” or “lacking hope” (which I would do in the past) won’t help. Only practice will.

“Find comfort in never catching up.”

A thought that came to me in August. Many times, we feel we are behind. Behind on work, behind on side projects, among many other things — even if we are truly giving it our all. That day, I realized that you just have to be comfortable with that. Focus more on completing the task at hand efficiently with your best quality. Focus less on the thought of how much has to get done because there will always be A LOT to do.

“Empathy is the ability to have your mind changed about the thing you feel deepest about.”

I learned this at a design thinking workshop in July. I’ve got into a few interesting discussions with people around this quote. To me, this quote simply calls for one to explore a deep immersion. It means that when my conservative friend shares liberal criticisms, I become conservative with him for a moment. It means that when my team at work critiques a concept/design that I’ve put together that I dislike what they dislike, too. Two examples, among many others, of how I’ve applied this idea.

“Embrace the absurdity. Think of ideas as a range.”

I learned this at the second design thinking workshop I attended. So often in my life, I’ve heard people say, “There are no bad ideas! Just share them!” Only for them to be ignored or disliked when I share. I wasn’t ever too fond of this saying. Until October.

Sure, there may not be any bad ideas, but whats more important to understand is that an idea sits on a spectrum — easy to hard or simple to absurd. All that matters is getting as many spectrums as you can and exploring each spectrum for what it’s worth.

“If you want honey, don’t kick over the bee-hive. Criticism doesn’t persuade.”

Dale Carnegie is legendary. This comes from his How to Win Friends and Influence People book, which I started reading months ago. People will very rarely change their actions simply based on what you say (unless you are an authoritative figure who can do that, but that’s beyond the point). But even worse, they definitely won’t want to change if you say it negatively and criticize them. Since this realization, I’ve tried approaching all interactions with this in mind. I feel that I’ve done this pretty successfully since learning.

“If you define it externally; it always leaves you hungry for more.”

This came from a Product Hunt podcast that I listened to a few months ago. I apologize for not remembering which one, but this came from one of their guests…and I love it. The term “it” refers to success in this context. This is something I still struggle with, but I am happy I’ve reminded myself of it in this post.

You see the Facebook/Instagram posts of people you know doing incredible things. You hear a story about a 20-something year old changing the world. You have this idea in your head that, “if I just had a Tesla, a 6-figure salary, and a bunch of perfectly fitting suits, I would be much happier.” But the reality is that it is just not true. External desire is never-ending! The comparisons, the aspiration for material things, status, and everything else. All of these things seem great, but once those desires are fulfilled, you will only find more desires. A genuine feeling of success is all within you. Being internally content and fulfilled is true success. Not success that you have to share with others to validate for yourself. This one is huge for me.

“To be interesting, be interested.”

This comes from Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People as well. I’ve always thought that the key to becoming more sociable and a better conversationalist, was being able to strike up a conversation about anything. But I was wrong because I thought the key was in being able to talk. The key to being a good conversationalist isn’t an ability to talk, but an ability to listen. And furthermore, finding a sincere interest in who/what you are listening to. Then, you become a good conversationalist and you learn more about people than ever before.

A solid insight that has impacted the way I talk with others.

“A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”

Who else but Mr. Carnegie again? Also from How to Win Friends and Influence People. This one hits home a ton. This lesson has led me to the realization that there is no sense in arguing unless individuals are speaking and listening empathetically which seldom happens in argument, making it best to avoid arguing overall. You can prove someone wrong, someone can prove you wrong. But at the end, you are both tied to your ideas. The best argument is no argument. There are somethings people will not agree on, no matter what you say. It’s best to just avoid these kinds of conversations, which I now tend to do. I’ve found my relationships to be healthier because of it.

I’ve just spent the past two hours finding and talking through some ideas that have been instrumental to my year in some regard. I now just have one more that I want to share as we head into 2016. Then you can go about your day/night. Here it is:

“Do the thing you fear and death of fear is certain.”

I learned this from Tom & David Kelley in their book Creative Confidence. The New Year has historically been a period of refreshment for everyone. A reason to bring change into our lives. A time where we set aspirations to accomplish for ourselves. I’ve never been a big New Years Resolution person, but as 2016 comes around, I will continue to remind myself of Tom & David’s words:

“Do the thing you fear and death of fear is certain.”

We all have aspirations in life. Weaknesses we want to turn into strengths. Skills we want to turn into professions. But for some reason our minds will occasionally keep us in our comfort zone…by making us feel these things would be too challenging, too late to start, not possible, or whatever else.

But what the Kelley’s remind me of is that it is just fear.

And the only way we will defeat the fear, is by doing the very thing it is that we fear. So this is the take-away: do it because it’s an aspiration of yours and do it so you can defeat your fear.

Wish you all a Happy New Year. 2016!

Thanks for reading — hope this provides value in your life.