11 Lessons That Changed My Life in 2018

Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

How am I ever going to get out of here?

That was the prevailing thought that filled my mind on an almost second-by-second basis during the summer of 2017. Just a few months prior, I had quit my job and moved to Chicago to pursue building my own business. It was a dream come true. Freedom to follow my dreams of being a successful entrepreneur and break free from the trap of the “ladder.”

However, within days of leaving my stable job, the pressure to provide for my family started to mount in my mind and pretty soon it was the only thing I could think about. With a wedding coming up in September of 2017, I felt like I wasn’t truly a “man” (whatever that means) unless I was able to provide a secure financial foundation for my family

I was consumed by the fear of being a failure and started to narrowly focus on making money, which as any entrepreneur can tell you is the WORST mindset to have if you want to build something successful. After a few months of this thinking, I was burnt out. I eventually signaled defeat and begin hitting the pavement to find a corporate job. Something I viewed as a complete failure at the time.

After 76 coffee chats over the span of 45 days, I was able to secure a great job in the field I was professionally interested in just a week prior to getting married.

As I look back over the past 16 months, I have learned some vital lessons about myself and the world of business that I hope will help you wherever you are in your professional journey.

The most powerful of which is…

1. View The World As It Is, Not As You Wish It to Be

For years I have fancied myself an entrepreneur. After starting a successful e-commerce company in college, I figured it was only a matter of time before I was a millionaire. I grew to dislike anything “corporate” and was constantly on the lookout for the next big thing. However, after analyzing my life while running my (successful) business full-time, I had to come to grips with the fact that maybe I wasn’t an entrepreneur and maybe my true talents lie in the corporate world.

“If you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” -Mark Twain

If you are an ambitious person that also fancies themselves an entrepreneur, you can understand how hard it was for me to admit that entrepreneurship wasn’t the place where I’d find true mastery. In a world where entrepreneurs are practically celebrities, self-awareness is becoming more and more important for young professionals looking to make a dent in the world.

Just because entrepreneurship is hot right now, DOES NOT mean that it is what you should pursue to achieve greatness. Inherently, mastery is only found by those individuals crazy enough to focus single-mindedly on the path that is the right one for THEIR personal skills and abilities.

2. Suffering Ceases to Be Suffering At The Moment It Finds Meaning — Victor Frankl

Without darkness, the light would cease to exist.

Life is suffering. The earlier you realize this the better. But that doesn’t have to be a depressing concept if you learn how to adjust your perception of it in a way the leads to growth and meaning.

By transforming suffering into meaning, you will not only find yourself in a place of fulfillment, but you will also equip yourself with the skillset necessary to change the world.

3. Financial Freedom Is the Archimedes Lever of Impact and Value

Without a financial foundation, you will always be reliant on others for your well-being and success. I understand that we all come from different backgrounds and were provided with different upbringings, but it would be a disservice to not stress the importance and freedom that finances can give you.

Not to buy more things, but to use that freedom to make a change in the world without constant fear of not having enough for yourself.

Freedom breeds abundance which translates into more freedom.

4. Learn to Love The Process and There Is Nothing You Cannot Achieve

Meaning, purpose, and greatness are not found in the results, but rather through the discipline and hard work it takes to achieve something worthwhile. It is the daily drip that compounds to huge success.

Focus on the day. Win the day. Do that enough times and you will find yourself far exceeding even your own lofty expectations.

5. Ruthlessly Focus On What You Can Control and Ignore The Rest

The economy. Your Boss. Your race or age. These are variables in life that you have no control over.

Your attitude. Work ethic. Emotions. These are variables that you can control.

Focus vehemently on the latter, while ignoring the former completely.

6. Present Sacrifices Lead to Future Rewards

By foregoing something in the present (comfort, luxury, leisure), you will reap something greater in the future. And the larger the sacrifice in the present, the larger the reward in the future. This law is exponential, not linear.

So instead of viewing a missed happy hour or a trip to Thailand as a negative, flip it on its head and view it as a price you are paying in the present for a future, much greater, reward.

This does not give you agency to be lazy in the present. The sacrifice must come with work and discipline for this to be true.

7. Never Be Swayed By the Limited Vision of Those Around You

Oftentimes when we have a big decision to make we outsource our thinking to those we are close to or work alongside. This is not inherently wrong, but you must realize that your goals and vision may be infinitely larger and more robust than are those of the people you are requesting advice from.

Always be secure in the vision you have for your future and do not limit yourself to the smallness of others, even if they are your superiors or family members.

What they don’t realize is that you are shooting for the moon, while they are merely shooting for the clouds.

8. Daily Compounding Is The Most Important Concept That Leads to Greatness

The Kaizen method is one of the most powerful concepts that I took to heart this year.

In summary, the concepts stress that small, incremental improvements over a long period of time will lead to exponential growth.

1% per day x 365 Days = 37x Increase

Growth then is not the measure of large outpourings of energy, but rather in the doldrums of daily, consistent effort towards a single outcome.

But beware, this compounding also works in the reverse.

Small decisions and consistency are infinitely important to growth. Make them wisely and commit to making small, incremental advancements every day and you will achieve the success you desire.

9. So Much Depends on Your Reputation, Guard It With Your Life — Robert Greene (48 Laws of Power)

The earlier you realize that reputation is everything and that you are the sole director of it the better.

Stop outsourcing your reputation to the firm you work for or the team you work on. Make a name for yourself. Craft your reputation carefully and honestly. And the sooner, the better.

But remember, it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and a second to lose it.

10. You Cannot Have Pleasure Without Pain; You Cannot Have Pain Without Pleasure

Voluntary suffering is not exactly what most people would call inspirational, but it is a concept that has led to so much growth and meaning for me over the past year. Putting yourself in situations that challenge you and push you to your limits is the single greatest way to building strength and resilience. It also improves your confidence and allows you to be more robust and nimble when life hands you a blow.

“I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” — Teddy Roosevelt

Constant and continual comfort is a farce and no one looking to be great should ever aspire to such things.

11. The Laws of Power Are Vital to Your Success; Ignore Them at Your Own Peril

Although power laws are typically viewed in a negative light for being Machiavellian, you would be naive to believe that they are not real and prevalent in the world of business.

By understanding power dynamics and political strategy, you will be arming yourself against the inevitable battles you will face in your career.

I have seen these laws play out in real time and if I had not taken the time to learn them, I would have been just another pawn in someone else’s game.

Do not be that person.

Wrapping It Up

I would love to hear some of the top lessons you learned in 2018 in the comments below!

Happy New Year

-Ben