Today is my 21st birthday. And, as I’ve done in  the  past , I’d like to share some of lessons I’ve learned over the last year. This is a more personal entry, so if you’re not interested in a self-indulgent post, feel free to skip it. Another article on getting more for life will be up next week.
Highlights of My Year
I try to inject aspects of my personal life into this blog. But, seeing as I don’t aim to write for this website as a diary, but a useful resource, a lot is glossed over. So, in case you didn’t pick it out cryptically from my hundred or so articles last year, here’s what I’ve been involved in:
- Eight grueling months of international business planning competitions.
- Began learning French (I leave for France August 31st).
- Saw my website blossom into a full-time income after a few successful projects.
- Then, later, watched my website decline dramatically because of my difficult schedule.
- Volunteered to help organize the largest student run business banquet in Canada.
- Raised over $35,000 as a student fundraiser.
- Had one relationship end when my girlfriend left for France.
- Had another relationship end when I decided to leave for France.
- Released The Little Book of Productivity  and nearly completed work on my next (and biggest) book, Think Outside the Cubicle.
- Spent a month traveling through Scandinavia, England and Belgium.
This year has been one of my most challenging. Managing an international competition schedule, full-time classes, freelance writing, volunteering and a business was difficult. I don’t recommend it. It may be a cliche, but I have learned a lot from those challenges.
Spend Time With What You Love, Ignore The Rest
This includes people, pursuits and passions. It’s easy to let other people persuade you on how you should be spending your time and who you should be spending it with. I definitely fell victim to this, getting involved in too much at the expense of the pursuits and people I really care about.
Watching this business wither due to neglect was painful, especially as I saw my time being drained away to commitments I didn’t care nearly as much about. Some of my relationships were also collateral damage in the pressure, so I can say it was a frustrating lesson to learn.
I’ve realized how important it is for me to focus the few things I actually give a damn about, and ignore the many things I don’t.
Don’t Follow the People Who Aren’t Walking the Same Path
It’s easy to get caught up, following people around you. I’m not going to say this is always a bad idea, but it is a bad idea when your goals are different. If I’m aiming at eventually running an online business full-time when I graduate, then I can’t operate from the same mindset as someone who just wants a safe job.
I think we all take cues from other people for how to behave, whether subconsciously or directly. But, it pays to ask yourself whether you want to go the same direction they are headed. If not, why are you following them?
There are Few Genuinely Win/Loss Moments in Life
When I started setting goals seriously, I wanted to win at all costs. Of course, that’s what I had been told I would need to do if I wanted to do something great. I now realize that, for the most part, this attitude is destructive and stupid.
There are few moments in life that you can clearly label win or lose. Instead of focusing on those moments, it’s best to just stay in the game. Last year, I would have seen being unable to support myself full-time from this business by my graduation as a loss. Now, I don’t see it that way. Even if I need to get another job and work first, I can still keep writing, keep playing and eventually I’ll win.
I think the reason so many people lose isn’t because they weren’t swinging hard enough. It’s because they quit too early after striking out.
If You Want to Appear Sophisticated, Criticize Something
The easiest way to look foolish is to believe in something, to support something, to be optimistic. Because, when you take a stand, you can always fall down on your face. If you want to appear sophisticated and intelligent, the easiest way is to sit in the corner and criticize the efforts of people actually sticking their neck out. You get points for showing their faults, and by supporting nothing, nobody can give a rebuttal.
I’ve realized I don’t want to appear sophisticated if that’s the cost. I’d rather be optimistic, pursue and create things that have flaws and be criticized for it. I’ve also learned I don’t want to spend time with people who are quick to criticize and slow to produce.
Here are a few of the things I will be up to next year:
- Living in France for an entire year.
- Major updates to the website, including new products and freebies.
- Travel throughout Europe and possibly beyond that.
- Working to become fully bilingual in French and English.
- And, of course, continuing to show up, every day  on the things that truly matter to me (writing, exercising, learning)
These will undoubtedly influence my writing for the next year. One of the difficulties (or possibly a strength) of writing for this blog is that the blog evolves almost as much as I do. So, I can’t say for sure exactly where it is going to go, but that’s part of the fun.
Thanks for reading this past year. Interacting with readers has been one of the most rewarding experiences of starting this website, far more than anything else. If a few people enjoyed the posts, I’ll be glad I took the time to write them.