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Things I Learned in 2011

January 6, 2012

Blogs come in every size, shape and political persuasion but regardless of the differences there’s almost an obligation to write some form of top 10 or “year in review” each year. Even for schmucks like myself, who get so drowned in life that regular posting trickles to a rarity, there’s something about annual reflection that comes second to nature. I think it has something to do with the origin of blogs as basic web logs or journals. As we contemplate resolutions and fitness, even blogs get a little introspective.

For myself, this has certainly been a year of change and learning, in both my personal life and professional life. So here is my list of lessons learned – I’d love to hear yours, too!

1. Time truly is finite. The fact of the matter is unless you’re under 18 or a college student who isn’t applying yourself, your days are likely pretty full. I can’t even really remember the times when an evening ebbed by slowly, when the hours between morning and sleeping were lazy and dull. I imagine I had those times; I mean, I had to have, at some point. Even now when I compare life with a baby to life as a working professional I’m shocked at how I frittered away precious minutes. Working late, going shoe shopping, sitting on a park bench reading a book – how ridiculous! I used to have time for these sorts of things!

Now, literally every moment in my day is full. From waking to sleeping I’m either working, chasing around a 1-year old, making dinner, preparing for some event. And while my husband would like to think my days would open up if I quit my job and I would somehow have hours of leisure to eat chocolates and flip through magazines, I don’t think that would be the case. Life is like air – it will fill any size container it’s put in. I know stay-at-home moms and wives who seem to live equally hectic days as myself.

If every moment is finite it’s that much more important to make the right choices with my time. Right now, I’m spending most of my spare minutes playing with a toddler and daydreaming about those days when I could try on shoes at the shopping mall…

2. For goodness sakes, enjoy your work. I have two full-time jobs that I love equally – being a mom and working in public relations. One is, admittedly, easier to quit than the other but I’m beyond lucky that I really enjoy what I do. Not everyone gets to work with a great company like I do. Some bosses really suck and sometimes work can really be work. Unfortunately, having a bad attitude doesn’t make it better. We spend way too much of our waking (and note point one, above, finite) hours working to despise it. If you can find something you love to do go after it, no matter who doubts you. But at the end of the day you’re bigger than a job – make your focus on life outside of your 9-5, and don’t spend your life outside of a terrible job talking about how awful it is.

3. Social media needs a shot of insulin to help it recover from the sugar rush. When it first arrived on the scene (in the world at large, a decade ago; in the government, several years ago), social media was like a toy everyone wanted to try – pretty soon it was everywhere. I’ve always strongly argued that social media needs to be integrated into overall communications efforts and strategic planning. In the past several years social media has come into its own and garnered a seat at the big-kids’ table, so to speak. Unfortunately, as social media has gained prominence in far too many communications shops it’s now trumping other efforts. Executive leadership looks to social media as a one-stop-shop for solutions rather than exploring other communications mechanisms. Don’t get me wrong, I think almost every brand or company needs a well-developed social media presence to succeed. What you don’t need is a loud-mouthed social media evangelist claiming Twitter is the answer to all of your problems.

What most communications strategies need today is content. The right media maven will help an organization solve problems and engage stakeholders, not just offer up apps and jazzy campaigns.

4. Most people don’t care what you say. The exceptions are people who work for you or who are married to you. But the actual reason they care about what you say is because they have a vested reason for doing so. This is harsh (please keep in mind my love of sarcasm), but also true. If we spent half as much time thinking about what other people think – of how we’re doing our jobs, how we’re raising our kids, of how we look at the grocery store – and spent that same amount of time on introspection, prayer and a little time in the Bible we’d be much better off. This is why listeners are generally more liked than big talkers.

If you find someone who you’re not paying or married to who actually listens to what you have to say and seems to appreciate it, that person is a true friend. Keep him or her around and bribe them with baked goods, good movies some reciprocated listening.

5. Life isn’t meant to be easy. (I know, I know – I’m pulling out the really ah-ha statements for the end). I think reality television and a fast-food lifestyle have convinced some people that life is supposed to be one fun-fest after another and come out made to order. Life is messy. Work is messy. Marriage is messy. God doesn’t promise us an easy life, he promises us heaven to those who confess their sins, trust and believe in him (and I hear heaven is pretty sweet, so that’s something). I think our tragic, pre-teen emo culture fest is churning out some young people who don’t quite understand the road ahead of them. Top that off with a group of baby-boomer apologists who are justifying any manner of immoral behavior because of a touchy-feely desire to just “let go and let God,” whatever what means.

There’s nothing like raising a kid (which is something I did in the last year) that convinces you that life isn’t made to order. You can think and plan and envision all you want and sometimes that all comes crashing down before breakfast. But really, that’s okay. Personally, professionally, the days where we create something exciting out of the unexpected are the days we’ll remember.

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