Today is the last day of 2016. It’s time to let the year go and release our accomplishments, mistakes, and regrets.
Several weeks ago, I bought Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever mini-course. I once had the opportunity to hear Hyatt give a keynote at World Domination Summit in Portland. He has that polish, which comes from many years of speaking experience, but he is also honest about his failures and disappointments.
There is something cathartic about admitting one’s fears and mistakes in front of a large group of people. No longer trapped in our minds or hidden in our hearts, they lose their power over us. We also watch as other people respond with not with derision or judgment but with empathy, encouragement, and most surprising of all, love.
Letting other people know is a form of letting go. (What’s an inspiring blog post without a cozy one-liner?)
By bringing fears and mistakes to light, we see them for what they really are: a very small part of our stories that need not determine who we become. “I made a mistake. I’m fallible. I’m imperfect. Just as I suspected. Now… time for coffee.”
We know, at least rationally, to not let our failures define us. But what about our successes? I believe we must also let go of accomplishments.
For years I have struggled with being a people-pleaser and overachiever precisely because I got attention and praise for academic excellence. (My football and tennis coaches forgot to order the trophies for “Most Persistent Encourager While on the Sidelines” or “Most Likely to Befriend His Opponent.”)
I wanted everyone to like me, to be happy with my work and “performance.”
Guess what? You get out of school, and no one hands you a blue ribbons—First Prize, Best in Show—for being nice and following instructions. I have wasted time and emotional energy trying to rectify someone’s ill-founded opinion of me when I could have ignored the snarky emails and ad hominem attacks.
I get frustrated with myself.
For example, a guy named Colby stumbled across my post “Being Right Won’t Pay Your Bills” on Hacker News. At the time, I had an email capture pop-up enabled on my blog, also known as a “nag screen.” Apparently, Colby didn’t like it. To express his displeasure, he created a new email address, complete with the f-word, and used it to subscribe to my newsletter.
He then sent me this email:
I actually only signed up because I got linked to “Being Right Won’t Pay Your Bills”, and it had an obnoxious nag screen. I meant to sign up and immediately unsubscribe so I could leave some feedback about it in the comments field. I got no email after that, though, so I couldn’t do that.
And the unsubscribe link in the email that you did send doesn’t work.
My interpretation of his email was that he had only subscribed so that he could leave a comment to nag me about the nag screen.
Why was I the target for this stranger’s righteous indignation at nag screens? My offense did not justify his response. I hadn’t invited him to my site. He clicked on the URL of his own volition, and he could have either bounced or simply x’ed out of the Welcome Mat. These alternatives would have cost him two seconds tops.
I should have just let it go. But I wrote back and explained that he couldn’t unsubscribe because I had already unsubscribed the email address he had used. I thought it was safe to assume that the person behind that email address didn’t want to read my stuff.
Interactions with strangers like Colby pique my sense of justice. They tie me up in knots, and then I spent precious time and energy untying myself.
Yet, it’s not the Colbys of the world that frustrate me most. He must be nursing some discontentment in his life, or he wouldn’t have turned my nag screen into a crusade. I hope he finds what he’s looking for.
No, I get frustrated with myself for lacking the discernment to identify the trolls, the wisdom to ignore them, and the tenacity to get on with my day. Instead of letting go, I waste time feeding my own righteous indignation!
We need one another.
The irony of righteous indignation is that the other person, the perpetrator, is still influencing your behavior. Sure, the rightness of your cause expands in your chest like a balloon and fills you with a sense of power.
But nursing those feelings of outrage and disgust doesn’t change the situation. You can beat or kill the dog that bit you, yet the wound persists.
Neither is the point intentional callousness—not caring what other people think. Of course you care what other people think.
We’re relational creatures, and we’re interdependent. I doubt you refine your own crude oil, make your shoes, or live in a homemade yurt. Admitting that you care what people think isn’t the same as hanging your self-worth on the coat peg of their opinion.
Truly stop caring what everyone thinks, and you become a misanthrope. You will have traded intimacy for a bitter loneliness that calls itself independence.
We need one another. We even need the occasional troll to help galvanize our beliefs and temper our motivations.
We can change.
The two things that have tripped me up most often are the following:
- The need for credit for my ideas and contributions;
- Not effectively managing my emotional response to mean-spirited people and unfair situations.
The good news is that I can change. We can change.
We need to learn from our fears and mistakes. We then need to hustle them out the door, dust off our hands, and restart the dreaming, planning, and doing. Let it go.
We also need to remember and celebrate our successes without letting them define or trap us.
I sincerely hope 2017 is your best year ever.
What Went Well in 2016
- Redesigned and launched AustinLChurch.com
- Averaged 1 blog post per week on AustinLChurch.com
- Wrote 6 guest posts: 1 for Upwork.com; 3 for LessAccounting.com (one, two, three); 1 for ConvertKit.com; 1 for DoubleYourFreelancing.com; 1 for ChrisGuillebeau.com)
- Hosted 3 SPACE Retreats
- Took Megan on a bucket list vacation to Greece
- Took the family to an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (Luxury Bahia Principe Esmeralda)
- Spoke at 2 conferences (DYF Conf Europe & DYF Conf Norfolk)
- Moderated a panel of speakers at Endeavor Summit
- Was a guest on Brennan Dunn’s Double Your Freelancing Podcast
- Named 40 under 40 in Knoxville
- Finished the Earn What You’re Worth guide for freelancers, creatives, and consultants
- Ran a half marathon
- Ran 4 times a week consistently the whole year
- Joined a Mastermind group
- Grew Wunderbar LLC to $10,000+ in monthly recurring revenue and had several $20K+ months
- Launched the Grabbling book project, sold 149 pre-ordered books & passed 50% of the funding goal!
- Stopped accumulating credit card debt and started paying it down
- Hosted two Mastermind dinners
- Hosted Attracting Better Clients workshop
- Surprised Megan with an anniversary staycation
- Went on a short backpacking trip with my friends Nathan, Jordan, Spencer, and Will
- Hired Susanne, my executive assistant, through eaHelp (now, BELAY)
- Collaborated with some amazing freelancers
- Established better business processes using a variety of apps and tools, including aText, SignNow, Harvest, Zapier, Ulysses, Trello, Dropbox, and GSuite
What Didn’t Go Well in 2016
- Got stiffed by a client who was also a friend
- Didn’t pay off our debt as quickly as I had hoped
- Spoiled several days of our Greece trip by being critical and grumpy
- Allowed technology or unimportant work tasks to bleed into family time
- Tried to start or move forward too many projects at once
- Closeup.fm didn’t grow as quickly as we hoped
Let it go.
Do you want to build a profitable business you love?
Duh. Pony up that email address, and you can learn from my failures. You can laugh at my mistakes. You can envy my success at croquet, slow running, and modest bank accounts. Let’s make good money and leave the world better than we found it.
No-nonsense business advice for content writers and freelancers. Served warm with a side of dad jokes.
Also published on Medium.