As a lifelong learner, I believe it’s important that we take time to reflect on new learning. So as 2022 comes to an end, I'd like to share the top 10 thing things I've learned over the past year.
In no particular order, they are as follows:
In 2022, I learned to not take myself too seriously. Some of you may not believe this, but I haven’t always been as easy going as I was in 2022. Over the past few years, I’ve begun to realize that all of the major problems I encountered weren't that big of deal. In fact, most of the "crises" I faced in years' past were merely a blip on the radar. From my perspective, far too many adults take themselves way too seriously, worrrying too much about matters outside their control as opposed to approaching life with a happy-go-lucky attitude.
Elementary kids love doing goofy faces. Secondary? Not so much.
In 2022, I learned success is impossible without good health. In late November, I experienced COVID for the first time. To be honest, it knocked me on my butt for a few days … making it nearly impossible to be productive. It was during this time of reflection when I understood the direct correlation between optimal health and personal success. Not only did I become grateful for my relative good health, I became more convinced than ever that having an active lifestyle is crucial for sustained, long-term success.
In 2022, I learned to take things one day at a time. I’ll be honest, leading a district of 1,700 employees and 10,000 students can be a little daunting if you think about it for too long. When I first started working in Waterloo, I would look at my weekly and monthly calendar and think, “Holy crap, there’s so much that needs to be done!” After a while, I realized this approach was unproductive and causing anxiety. I have recently focused on taking things one day at a time, as opposed to worrying about the entirety of the week.
In 2022, I learned that 40 is the new 30. Earlier this year I turned the big 4-0. And while my drivers license might say I was born in 1982 … I still feel like I have the energy and enthusiasm of someone who is much, much younger. One of the biggest tricks I’ve learned is to embrace the changing times. Whereas some 40-year-olds reject pop culture and resent modern society, I have found enjoyment in listening to new music, watching new shows, wearing the latest trends, and using current slang, bro.
In 2022, I learned that concerts are my “thing.” Everybody has that one hobby or passion area that excites them, and my thing is concerts. This year I splurged on “pit” tickets for Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Post Malone, Eric Church, and Jack Harlow … just to name a few. As someone who loves to entertain large audiences, I find myself highly motivated by musicians who are on top of their game. Furthermore, I draw energy from learning the stories of perseverance and determination that most entertainers endure before making it big.
Nothing like taking your baby sis to see Jack Harlow!
In 2022, I learned to be more confident. Believe it or not, in the past I have struggled at times with self-confidence. While on the outside I may have looked self-assured .. on the inside I was insecure and battling a bit of "imposter syndrome." Whether it was in my leadership, in my friendships, or in my relationships, I was guilty of overthinking and questioning my abilities. This past year, I have invested a large amount of time understanding myself and ineterpersonal dynamics. This has resulted in me caring less about what others think being more comfortable with who I am as a person.
In 2022, I learned that dating can be a lot of fun. I am fairly private about my dating life, so private that some people have accused me of being a recluse! Truth is, this past year I have had the opportunity to date some amazing women and take in some incredible experiences. I recently adopted an abundance mentality, meaning that if things don't work out with someone, there will always be someone else who comes along. This mindset has allowed me to be totally in the moment and enjoy the dating process more than ever before.
In 2022, I learned that giving brings happiness. For the past several years, I have continued to give away more money, clothing, and possessions than ever before. Growing up with a single mom and five children meant that I was raised on a tight budget while eating free school lunches. Having this experience taught me how far a little generosity can go. Not only have I not forgotten where I came from, I now feel motivated to go the extra mile to do things for others.
Small moments of giving often last a lifetime for others.
In 2022, I learned that family is important. In April, I experienced a "boys weekend" in North Carolina with my brother and his son. In June, I helped my Grandma move from Minnesota into an Iowa nursing home. In July, I traveled with family to celebrate my dad's 70th birthday. And in December, I visited my sister and her husband in Kentucky. I am realizing that friendships will come and go, but family is forever. I am notoriously selfish when it comes to my time, and am bad at making time for others. In 2022 and moving ahead to 2023, my goal is to spend more time with family.
It's not every year dad turns 70, step-mom turns 60, and you turn 40!
In 2022, I learned what it means to leave a legacy. In July I left my job at South Tama County to move to Waterloo. During this transition, I was asked what kind of legacy I was leaving behind. This was a really deep question and something I felt uncomfortable answering. However, the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that leadership is about how we make others feel as opposed to programs, initiatives, or test scores. I believe leaders who stay positive, treat people well, and act with integrity leave lasting legacies in their organizations. Here is my letter to STC employees when I announced I was leaving job.
If you liked this article, you'll love my books Learning Curve and Turning Points.