As the year wraps up, I’ve had some time to reflect on the past year…and my thoughts keep going back to, “What a year indeed!”

This article is filled with more contradictions and opinions, so you’ve been warned. Too much information? Absolutely!

I’m very much stuck on the idea of doing things in front of larger audiences. Not so much for the attention, but rather the liberation. Success doesn’t guarantee continued success, just like failure doesn’t have to last forever. Not hiding behind anything good or bad has generated a feeling I haven’t experienced before… It just is what it is.

Soundtrack: “Don’t take the Money,” by Bleachers.

Here are ten things I realized over the course of the last 12 months:

BEING UNDERSTOOD IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.
Not right, not wrong, but understood. Many past posts of mine are around Emotional Intelligence, something I became very interested in this year. I realized that for most of my life, I spent more time trying to understand others without being understood myself. I admit, in my 20’s I secretly enjoyed the mystery that surrounded me. Now, not so much. I don’t want to be fawned over, come across as intimidating, smarter than I actually am, loved, hated or anything in between. I want people to see what my good friends and family see. A normal person who is ambitious in his career, works hard to understand people/things and wants to be nice.

How strange it must sound for someone to complain about receiving attention and opportunities…but that’s where I am at.

STICKING IT TO THE MAN ISN’T WORTH ANYONE’S TIME.
I started 2017 wrapping up my tenure as VP of Digital Marketing at a Milwaukee Ad Agency. I felt like I launched a budding practice (and it was one of the hardest things I ever did) and I felt it fell apart in a matter of one month and I found myself completely out of energy. I told myself I didn’t care, but I did… I’ve written in the past about how people’s problems are indeed THEIR problems. I can’t solve them. In this particular case, the company I was working for wasn’t owned by me, so my opinions were’t the ones that counted… and the owner was free to do whatever he wanted. The mix of my passive aggressive/spiteful behavior, helping other former colleagues get new jobs and general bitterness wasn’t worth anyone’s time. I’m still in business. They are still in business. The world is still spinning. And like always, I’m not necessarily right about any of it…

What’s interesting to me is how much I enjoyed some of it. What does that say about me? So much time was spent being angry, which could have been spent on much more positive work.

BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR IS INDEED LONELY.
The launch of the #10things blog series came from being an entrepreneur. I absolutely loved it and would consider giving it another go (Round 3). Although it was very lonely at times. What wasn’t a problem in mid winter proved to be too much for the hot summer & long days. I’d wake up by 7 am and by 10 am I was ready to not be at home. I’d go to coffee shops, I’d schedule onsite meetings, I’d network with people around downtown Milwaukee. I’d stay at the business lounge for an extra hour making cold calls. It just wasn’t enough and I’d still get home around 4 or 5 pm to a hot sun beaming through my windows. I was always restless and couldn’t shut my mind off with all that time on my hands. It’s the main reason I took my current job. I needed a more consistent routine and wanted to keep my digital marketing skills sharp.

OTHER PEOPLE’S SUCCESS IS AS IMPORTANT AS MINE AT THIS POINT.
I love that I can say this and mean it. In my early 20’s, competition was so high in our professional lives. Everyone was going to be a Director or President or Owner… and I wanted to beat them all. By my mid 20’s, I’d say 50-75 percent of people were no longer after those things and had settled into or accepted their career paths. By my late 20’s, after stints in Consulting and Advertising, I found most people five years ahead or behind me were burnt out after doing similar work…. and that’s when I began to realize. It wasn’t about beating others, it was about celebrating our collective success. You spent three years building a practice? You got your MBA while working a full time job and having a baby? You were promoted to Senior Manager or VP?

All those things are awesome achievements! Can you imagine what the individuals from the above examples could do if they teamed up? Michael Jordan said that back in his day he never would have imagined playing alongside Larry Bird or Magic Johnson. Those were the guys he wanted to beat and prove he was better than. I know I still have a healthy amount of that competitive drive in me, but with the number of individuals in Digital Marketing, I’m more interested in teaming up or hearing about others success in the space. I truly hope the people reading this progressed their careers in a major way this past year. Teach me what you’ve learned! We’ll all get to where we want to go, just at different times.

THE CLOCK IS FOREVER TICKING.
Over the Holiday season I had a very minor health scare. Ever since I was in elementary school, I’ve had occasional bouts of low blood sugar and low blood pressure, causing me to get light headed or faint when I stand up too quickly. It still happens to me about 3 or 4 times a year…and this time was in front of my parents.

It didn’t help that I spent the day before gorging on too much holiday food, including an abundance of appetizers, various meats, sugar cookies and beer. Mix that with no exercise (I usually run 5 miles a day), the first time I wasn’t stressed out in months and a skipped breakfast the following day… you had everything you needed for the right recipe for a blood sugar spike. Usually when it happens, it’s for a split second and then I feel back to normal, but occasionally I can’t shake the light headed feeling. I come across as confused, have trouble putting my thoughts together and can’t kick the flight or fight response. It’s very uncomfortable and lasts between 15-30 minutes.

Luckily, after eating some food and drinking fluids I got back to normal, but it really takes an odd toll on you for the remainder of the day. My immediate thought was, “Well I better make sure I’ve got a will prepared…” and then I told myself I was too young (at the ripe age of 31) to worry about stuff like that..but am I? It was a good reminder to take care of your health. Everything is always fine…until it isn’t and I imagine it will be a pretty instant switch. Another reminder for portion control, to stop smoking for good, limit booze, continue to exercise, make sleep a priority, etc… all stuff we’ve heard before.

I’M STILL A BACHELOR…AND PROBABLY WILL BE FOR AWHILE.
It’s something I never talk about. I’ve been single for the past 10 years, something no one can seem to understand. The thought that’s been on my mind lately is around whether or not being in a relationship with someone is a matter of both people pointing at one another and saying, “Yeah you’ll do…” I’ve been on lots of dates (and am probably offending lots of women with this), but always found it too offensive or rude to the other person to date them just for the sake of it.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve met a small handful of women that upon meeting them or seeing them for the first time, it was like a bolt of lightning hit me. It wasn’t just looks, it was the way they carried themselves I couldn’t get over. I had to know who they were and what they were like and I came on way too strong…and in other cases not at all in fear of doing so. I know that I was doing to others what I despise being done to me. I put these people on pedestals…but I really couldn’t help it. From what I’ve gathered, they are all now married and progressing with their lives. I find myself jealous and impressed. Why were they so willing to give things a try or make it work with others?… I need to get over myself and accept they just weren’t into me as they were given more than enough opportunities. My inability to convince these types of people to date me isn’t something I can easily let go of, and I just can’t stay the course if that feeling of intuition and intrigue isn’t screaming at me.

…and until I can accept that I’m likely wrong about all of this, I’ll probably continue to come across like a monk. All of this #metoo stuff isn’t helping either. I need a playbook to understand all the things I can and cannot do at this point to advance an intimate relationship.

I’M LOSING TOUCH WITH THE YOUNGER DEMOGRAPHIC.
I find this one funny. Again, at the ripe age of 31, I’m still considered to be in the demographic that is most marketed to in the world… but I find people that are ten or so years younger than me to be fascinating. I ended up going to a concert in Madison, WI at the Student Union with a good friend of mine. Mom jeans are back in full force? One piece swimsuits were being worn as shirts…

I was wearing jeans, Nike shoes and a henley T-Shirt…the same as I always wear. The same as I’ve been wearing for the past 10 years…the same I will be wearing in another 10 ye… Oh no. I realized that’s how it starts. I’ll be the 50 year old man wearing his college style jeans and sneakers. I was terrified of what I must have looked like among the crowd, sticking out like a sore thumb.

EXPERIENCE IS THE SECOND MOST IMPORTANT THING.
One of my old bosses once told me that, “No one is Steve Jobs…not even Steve Jobs.” At the time I disagreed with him. Why would you ever try to put a lid on innovation and great ideas? Fast forward five plus years and I couldn’t agree with him more. One of the biggest things I realized growing a practice and being on my own was that people only carry with them the memories of how they feel about things. Steve Jobs was known as an innovator but also just as a jerk. I think it will be interesting in 100 years how people like him and Larry Elison will be viewed compared to guys like Jeff Bezos and Marc Benioff.

To me, that’s what it’s all about. Making someone feel good. It may not happen right away and you may have to make them feel bad before you can make them feel good, but that’s how you grow relationships, businesses and make memories in life. Those are the experiences I’m referring to... and I want as many as I can get my hands on.

GOING WITH THE TIDE STILL DOESN’T EXIST FOR ME.
Another thing I found interesting about entrepreneurship was how easy it was to sit idle. In the winter time, I loved getting out of bed, pouring a big cup of coffee and just sitting on my couch writing blogs and sending emails. It actually became concerning and made me anxious. I realized how people become unmotivated and lazy. Even after I retooled my routine to get up earlier and get moving, the thought stayed with me, as if my couch was an evil force trying to persuade me otherwise.

I’m a big James Bond fan and in the movie Skyfall, his commanding officer, M, recites a line that has always stayed with me. Anytime I worry about becoming idle, I remember this phrase and realize that sitting around has never been my bag..and probably never will be (just the fact that I spent so much time worrying about it…).

She says, “And here today, I remember this, I think, from Tennyson: “We are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will. To strive, to seek, to find, and *not* to yield.”

I’M CERTAIN THIS IS HOW IT WILL ALWAYS BE…AND I TAKE SOME COMFORT IN THAT.
I think like many people I thought I had all the answers in my 20s…and now in my 30s I’m hungry for more knowledge, more power, more experience, etc. I’m still grappling with many of the things that have always bothered me, though. I’ve gained clarity around my problems and in the process complicated them. Even ones that I solved have led to new ones…and I’m okay with that. How boring would it be if we all peaked and had no challenges to confront? I don’t want to sit around. I don’t want to be idle. I want this engine running on all cylinders and close to redline!

I remember being 16 years old thinking I needed a Pontiac GTO. My dad told me I could buy one with my own money when I was older and I remember thinking, “It just won’t be the same when I’m 30. I need it now!”…well 16 years later I’d still love to have a GTO and I’m sure that won’t change for quite awhile…

Happy new year, everyone! There are so many great things going on and I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings. I hope the new year brings you all good fortune and joy!

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