Stepping into the new 20’s, I’m delighted to see those around me reflecting on the last decade of their lives. I’ve read incredible stories, heard lovely memories, and perused pictures of people sharing their last 10 years. Seeing how those around me grew over the past 10 years, I decided to take a look at myself.
This past decade included graduating law school, living all over NYC, traveling the world, getting married, and having two babies, all while navigating my health and career. I am happy to say that I feel wholly satisfied to have lived a pretty full decade. Through this introspection, I also realized I learned a lot. Below are the top ten things I learned from 2010 – 2019.
Which one resonates with you? What have you learned in the past ten years?
1. True love is peaceful.
This was a monumental lesson for me. I had a few strong relationships in my life, several of which I felt some versions of love. A frequent factor among them, however, was a persistent dynamic of unease, uncertainty, or unpredictability usually masqueraded as “passion.”
When I met my husband all the fervor still existed but it was accompanied by a sense of calm. Our connection was so clear, unwavering, and incredibly constant that it created what I can only describe as a sense of peace. This, of course, didn’t mean we didn’t have our fair share of growing pains. However, a mutual purpose organically emerged that allowed any adversity we encountered to be filtered through a colander of support and foresight. It forever changed the way I understand love and informs the way I approach other relationships in my life as well.
A mutual purpose … allowed any adversity we encountered to be filtered through a colander of support and foresight.
2. Where you work is just as important as what you do.
Being the first of the millennial generation and in the workforce for 25 years, I got to have a front row seat in the evolution of the workplace. I worked in retail, waited tables, climbed the corporate ladder, argued cases in court, created digital content, and now manage an entire company. It’s been quite a ride. I got to experience firsthand my generation shape the employment landscape by demanding transparency, work-life balance, flexibility, equality, and meaning at work.
In the past decade specifically, I have been elevated, discriminated, bullied, empowered, frustrated, and inspired. I have been told I wasn’t and then told I was. I thought I couldn’t and then realized I could.
All of this revealed that where I work, the people I work with, and the leadership that is in place is equally important to the role and responsibilities I hold. Finding an environment where I am the best me will always be just as important as what I’m hired to do. Identifying the values of a work environment that match my own is now part of my professional DNA.
Identifying the values of a work environment that match my own is now part of my professional DNA.
3. Don’t let other people’s opinions control you.
I’ll admit, this one is still a work in progress, but I realized towards the end of 2019 how important it is to my continued happiness. We live in a world where real life communities blur with online ones, where the lines of professional and personal are no longer easily discernible, where being a wife, mother, executive, and friend comes with a complex cloud of unsolicited advice, socially constructed rules, and a hefty dose of judgment. It is terribly difficult these days to wear the proverbial tinfoil hat and keep the mind control at bay.
That being said, I firmly believe in taking constructive feedback from a trusted group who will candidly tell you what’s up. To me, that is all about self improvement. But when external opinions hinder your ability to move forward or value yourself, then it becomes imperative to start tackling it. When it comes to other people’s opinions I have learned five main mantras:
- Most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to think about me.
- If people do have opinions about me, it’s more about their own stuff than me.
- I control whether someone impacts me and how I react.
- I will never please everyone.
- I can’t base decisions on the opinions of those who don’t have a real stake in the results.
I look forward to working on this deeper in the next decade where this becomes less of a proactive practice and more of an organic paradigm in which I function!
It is terribly difficult these days to wear the proverbial tinfoil hat and keep the mind control at bay.
4. Use avoidance and discomfort as a compass for what you should lean into.
In the last ten years, this lesson continued to manifest in different ways. The first time was a yoga class in 2012 where I learned that “the pose we avoid the most is the pose we need the most.” At the time I processed this as needing to step up my side plank. It took several years before realizing how universal this phrase really is.
Like side planks, there were people, conversations, professional obstacles, and personal insecurities that I kept avoiding because I was uncomfortable with the consequences of facing them. But avoiding them didn’t make them go away, and even exacerbated some issues because they’d build up, get awkward, or manifest into something worse.
In the past decade I’ve learned to recognize and be honest with myself when I’m avoiding moments of discomfort. Although far from perfect, I’ve gotten better at having uncomfortable conversations, making tough decisions to remove negativity in my life, and pushing myself in areas that help me grow personally and professionally. Like a yoga pose, this becomes hard to do if not done regularly. My intention for 2020 is to double down on this practice.
I kept avoiding because I was uncomfortable with the consequences of facing an uncomfortable situation. Avoiding didn’t make them go away because things would manifest into something worse than what it originally was.
5. It’s never too late to quit smoking.
When you smoke for 10+ years – it becomes increasingly difficult to understand life without a cigarette. I LOVED smoking. I didn’t want to stop. It made me happy, social even. However, in April of 2013, I decided to have my last cigarette and never looked back. Not even one. There were a lot of factors that allowed me to achieve this and I could write pages on that journey alone.
The main takeaway, however, was overcoming the mindset that I had been smoking so long that quitting wouldn’t make a difference anymore. Utilizing this timeline helped me see that no matter how many years I smoked – I had an incredible opportunity to heal my body from the damage smoking had done to it. The timeline kept me inspired and I look forward to hitting the 10 year mark in 2023!
The main takeaway, however, was overcoming the mindset that I had been smoking so long that quitting wouldn’t make a difference anymore.
6. True mastery means actually hitting your target.
I had a lot of goals I set for myself over the past ten years. Some I achieved, some I got close, and some I downright failed. It’s the “getting close” ones that really taught me a valuable lesson: You can (and should) celebrate getting close to your goals but don’t fool yourself into thinking that “being close” is achieving that goal. You can never actually master anything if you allow “almost” to be enough and yet, so many people do so every day.
Truly mastering something means getting it all the way. Not 3/4, not 99%. I found that the most successful people around me celebrate their progress yet recognize the difference. If I want to lose 30 pounds and I only lose 25, I will celebrate the hell out of it but I will not tell people I lost 30 pounds. If I commit to running a 5k and only run 4.5k, I can be proud of my run but can’t say I’ve actually run a 5k. If I manage a work project and hit 90% of my metrics, I did very well but I didn’t actually hit my metric.
Being able to celebrate progress while still maintaining the honesty and rigor to achieve mastery over something is what I’ve seen distinguish the great from the exceptional.
You can never actually master anything if you allow “almost” to be enough and yet, so many people do so every day.
7. Having children truly does take a village – and who you work for is part of that village.
I don’t usually share super personal aspects of my life publicly, but in order to write a truly authentic piece on this, I couldn’t leave out the transformative journey to being a mother. Here is how the last three years shaped up for me in a nutshell:
- April 2017: I was ecstatic to find out that I was pregnant. Shortly after, what began as morning sickness escalated into having Hyperemesis gravidarum. For the next 5 months, I vomited multiple times a day, lost 10 pounds, and lived with severe nausea.
- January 2018: I was so grateful to welcome my son to the world – happy and healthy. One day after returning from the hospital, however, I had a major health incident that rushed me back to the hospital. I was given two scary diagnoses that, although ultimately manageable, would need to be monitored for the rest of my life. I also was simultaneously recovering from minor but extremely painful labor complications.
- April 2018: Three months later, I was pregnant again! We were so happy but also nervous because my recent health developments made my pregnancy high risk and I had to see specialists to ensure the baby was growing normally. I was juggling a newborn, an enormous amount of doctor’s appointments, and hyperemesis (for another five months).
- June 2018: I returned to work where I started my new role as Chief Operating Officer. Despite being excited over this incredible career opportunity, I was still struggling with health issues, being a new mom, and being pregnant again. Life. Was. HARD.
- December 2018: We welcomed my daughter into the world – happy and healthy.
- April 2019: I returned to work while adjusting to being a mother of two under two!
In order to write a truly authentic piece on this, I couldn’t leave out the transformative journey to being a mother.
In between the lines of the above timeline, there was a lot of fear, confusion, vulnerability, and a lack of control I never experienced before. I lost confidence in my body’s ability to do things it was supposed to. Some friends didn’t fully understand what I was going through and faded away. I struggled to navigate the maternity leave labyrinth to ensure I got the benefits I deserved. I fought with insurance companies and hospitals about billing. I was on little sleep with babies crying at night. All while trying to not miss out on the moments of pure magic happening with the beautiful family my husband and I created. All while leaving room for others at work who were struggling and needed the guidance my position required me to provide. All while ensuring that those that didn’t fade knew how much I treasured their love.
I learned balancing all of these things required a village. My husband, parents, siblings, and friends were pivotal to being able to endure the past few years. The contributions they had on my physical, mental, and spiritual stability were invaluable.
In addition to that, however, I was truly blessed that my village extended to the workplace. Lawline CEO, David Schnurman, was a huge support system for me. He was (and continues to be) unwaveringly kind – providing me flexibility and understanding. He consistently provides me career and leadership growth without ever questioning whether the events in my life could negatively impact his business. He has shown me that strength comes in many forms and that what I was enduring – no conquering was reflective of a person he wanted to work with. He believed in me and my ability to grow myself and the company simultaneously. He showed me what true leadership looks like and I feel blessed to have a village where my work supports me just as fiercely as my family and friends do.
I feel blessed to have a village where my work supports me just as fiercely as my family and friends do.
8. Consistency is the key to being trusted.
Through the last ten years, I’ve realized that the people you trust have one common characteristic: they are consistent in the area you need them to be trustworthy. I would go so far as to say that this is a universal truth.
Take any person you trust to always do “X” and you will find that it is because they have consistently proved they can do “X” over and over again. “X” can be anything: being on time, making the best cupcake, keeping confidentiality, making a deadline, giving good advice, always lending a hand, – the list goes on and on. When I don’t trust someone, the first question I ask myself is, where do I think they lack consistency? When someone I care about lacks trust in me, I ask myself how can consistency in an area help change that?
Put another way, being unpredictable, especially in areas where others need you to be reliable, is the biggest way to lose someone’s trust. The more consistent you are in the areas people need you, the more trustworthy you become – whether you are a business, a friend, an employee, or a partner.
The people you trust have one common characteristic: they are consistent in the area you need them to be trustworthy.
9. Be grateful for the time people give you.
For so many of us, we create expectations for how we believe others should behave in our lives. Many times our expectations don’t match with a person’s behavior which can create conflict. Throughout the past decade I’ve learned that everyone is standing on a seesaw trying to balance their time in the best way they can. I’ve had friends and family prioritize others over me and I have prioritized certain people over others. It used to make me sad, frustrated, or even angry when I thought I deserved more time, effort, or presence from a person than I was getting. But then, conversely, I would feel sad, frustrated, and angry when others couldn’t understand when I was unable to prioritize them over what was happening in my life.
Over the last decade, I have realized that most of us are just trying to do the best we can. Sometimes we succeed and other times we don’t. Sometimes we choose our time wisely, sometimes we waste it. Sometimes we invest in the right people, and sometimes we don’t. We have all been there. None of us have the perfect formula. So I choose to be grateful for whatever time others give me.
The fact that there are people in this world that carve out time and prioritize me – no matter what it looks like – I am grateful for it. I don’t take it personally if it’s not what I expected. I choose to focus on what others give rather than what they are not giving. This has manifested in creating a community of people who are understanding, grateful, and flexible with me when I need it as well. I have created deeper relationships with less pressure and more substance. Like with true love, my relationships have developed more peacefully and authentically since I shifted my thinking.
I choose to focus on what others give rather than what they are not giving.
10. Curiosity will get you everywhere.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m an incredibly curious person. I love learning about people, processes, subjects, and approaches I come across. The more I learn, the happier I am. I love puzzles, riddles, games, new concepts, and people. I love a mystery. I am intrigued by concepts that challenge my established notions. I find great satisfaction solving problems. It’s always been a part of who I am since I was a child.
What I didn’t realize until the last decade was how beneficial my curiosity is to the successes in my life. The ability to confront the world with a burning desire to know “why” has been the key to my personal and professional growth. Being curious forces us to look outside the bubbles we create for ourselves. Being curious makes the world instantly discoverable and adds ideas, solutions, and varying perspectives to our skillset we wouldn’t otherwise encounter.
More practically, I can attribute curiosity to some very specific wins in the past ten years:
I connect with people. Whether it’s a networking event, meeting the in-laws for the first time, or making new friends, learning how to network and connect with people is crucial for everyone.
I learned that just being genuinely curious about who other people are, what they do (and why they do it), and what’s important to them is what creates great rapport. I forego any expectations beyond the present conversation. I shed any form of future obligation from the discussion. Simply, I just chat. If that conversation develops into something more, that will happen organically. If it doesn’t, I am grateful to have met someone new, learned something new, and had a good time doing it! Authentically practicing this made me better at networking, better at dating (and ultimately finding my amazing husband), and better at creating a network of individuals I feel grateful to have in my circle in whatever capacity they have the bandwidth to provide it.
I know how to run a business. Many people have asked me about my professional journey from being a practicing attorney to being an executive. Taking time to truly reflect on my 10 year journey from law school to today, I realize curiosity is the driving force. I delve deep into the inner workings of the businesses I work in. In the short time I practiced law, I had a deep grasp of the goals of the firm, the core clientele they wanted, the way they nurtured those relationships, the billing and collections practices, and the key players both strategically and administratively to help achieve those goals.
When I moved to my current company, I immediately reviewed my departments goals, processes, and pain points to understand why we were doing things we did. After several months, I was intent on learning not just my current role in content but spent hours outside of regular work understanding marketing, sales, and compliance. No one asked me to do this. I didn’t do this with an agenda. I was just curious about how it all worked and connected. Over time, I became well versed in so many areas of the business that individuals naturally started coming to me for leadership which organically led me to become the obvious person for the position.
I create unique experiences and opportunities. Curiosity has led me to some of the greatest experiences. My curiosity about people has resulted in invitations to speaking engagements, art gallery openings and movie screenings, and thought provoking conferences and workshops. My curiosity of other cultures has pushed me to travel solo to various places around the world meeting incredible people, tasting delicious cuisines, and seeing beautiful landscapes. My desire to know how how things work has allowed me to successfully help other people who have trouble navigating complex processes so they get the answers, resources, and assurances they deserve.
Curiosity is invaluable to the successes in my life. I’ve observed that many of the most successful people I’ve met have the same curious essence. Often, these people tend to speak less and listen more. They rarely speak about themselves unless prompted. I now seek out those people and try to fill my universe with them. In this next decade, I hope to have a richer community of curious people around me and to nurture curiosity in my children as well.