What I learned in 2018

What I learned in 2018

Bill Gates posted something with a similar title the other day. Who better to borrow from? So without further ado, let me cherrypick a tres jolie collection of ups, downs and ahas, from my office on the 17th floor to your browser.

The second I wrote that, I sighed a sigh of insignificance. What could I possibly have to say? But then I can only give what I have, so here it is.

A business of one is a lonely affair. Buckle up.

Yes, on grey rainy days with no immediate deadline you surely can turn on the other side and surrender the melancholy under the warm duvet while hoards honk behind the wheel in traffic.

Yes, you can have lunch with your sister on Wednesdays at the Greek place you both love and catch up on books and the kids.

And yes, you can put your feet up and binge on youtube videos on storytelling until 2PM if you so desire, and then head to the bedroom for what we’ll call here a nap.

You also have to make sure work is done on time and there’s more coming. Nobody else is there to take care of it.

Are you more productive? Chances are you are. You will also have a fresh addition to your checklist: get social. Pronto.

No man or woman is an island.

I learned that in January when for reasons still obscure, my anxiety graph showed a huge spike. Anxiety is, by the way, a continuum unless you are either a) a very lucky individual b) a heavyweight meditator, which probably brings us back to a).

What keeps your client up at night? Do you remember that question? It comes up for a reason. Clients are up at night for a reason. Mine was both existential, as it many times is – I was about to turn 40, but more on that some other time – and overwhelm.

In your first years, Seth Godin says, you hydrate from the hose. It sure was true for me. And there are consequences.

You just keep up with it as best you can and then you need to fall back on something. Someone. Like my sister, my parents, my friends from around the world who checked on me and listened to me rant about whatever.

You take the fall. It happens. It’s how you learn faith and feel love. Otherwise you don’t go on.

Vague means it doesn’t get done (well).

I’ll do marketing on Friday. Or I’ll get started on research at 10:00 am. It’s how the story goes. Then, come Friday or 10:00 am, the latest from Chanel on Youtube will look ten times more tempting. Because what do you mean, do marketing? Am I actually going to start thinking about it then? Chances are, I have learned, very, very slim.

Bottomline, emergencies get handled. The rest is at the whim and twist of fate. I got that out of one of the n courses I put myself through 2018. Todd Herman’s 90 day year was well worth the price for that and other hacks I have now wired into my week.

What I do now is procedures: documents of steps I need to take come Operations Monday or Writing Friday. I open the doc, look at the list and do the basic tasks it says I should. For marketing, there’s a to do list. Whenever I have an idea of something that is actually actionable, I put it down in the Marketing to do list doc. When Marketing Fridays come, I open it and, as the poet says, just do it. Everything else is make believe. Haze. Nada.

What’s my 123? aka as Discipline is freedom.

Says Jocko Willink, not that I am a member of the 4:30 am club. If I wake up that early I’m either catching a flight or sick. The Navy SEAL figured it out, though.

Remember the Aristotle quote everyone used to throw around in college? It’s the go to training prompt: excellence is a habit. (Apparently it was also a misattribution, but let’s just leave it at that.)

How am I going to be excellent at anything today unless I’ve done it a million times? Well, you’re not.

Enter the morning routine, probably one of my biggest wins in the last years. I wake up, I meditate for 10 minutes (lately with Sam Harris’s Waking up course), I get on the mat for 30 minutes of yoga, I do the morning pages and head to breakfast. Not every day, but most days. I will brush my teeth somewhere in between these steps.

Do I want not to do it at times? Yes. But I generally don’t think about it. Let me revert to the poet – just do it.

I am now searching for the alchemy that gets me to do the research, write etc. when I say I do. When I find it, you’ll know. It’ll be all over Times Square. Or here. Check here first.

The mind will learn very slowly. And that’s alright.

It’s not my neuroscience thesis. I have no evidence for that other than my own impressions. And mind can play tricks on all of us.

The thing is, I’ve been on my own for almost four years. I had no idea what I was heading into. I just wanted to do something that put to work what I had best to offer. I’ve had heartbreaks big and small every other Thursday, and it sure took a while until I learned not to believe all I read out there in the land of the Internet.

A website that converts on its own without Google Ads and no constant other traffic generation efforts is a very rare thing. A sales page with a buy button does not equal money in the bank. And it takes a lot of inner work to name your price and get it. You will have to fire clients now and then, and that’s ok, too. They’ll get a better fit. The people I admire have been doing this for 10+ years and are still learning. It just takes time.

Because it builds something truly valuable. Technology is not just tools and instruction, but also process knowledge. (There’s a wood shrine in Japan that gets destroyed and built from scratch every 20 years so the community can pass on the knowledge from one generation to the next. Go figure.)

Clients are heroes. And teachers. (And I’ll still charge full price.)

I am grateful to my clients past, present and future.

Because I’ve learned so much. Like real stuff. An ambitious crypto entrepreneur introduced me to the crystal clear lines of Paul Graham, a Silicon Valley Yoda I would have not learned of otherwise (seriously, if you’re in tech, read Hackers and Painters. If you’re not in tech, read it still.)

My health and slow ageing coach client taught me how to prep all my meals a week in advance and saved me hours and money in the process.

My international litigator client who remains the only foreign lawyer in Afghanistan showed me the meaning of fierce and compassionate. Did I mention she’s a woman and has mind boggling success rates because she uses laws for their intended purpose: to protect?

Where else would I get this education and get to be a part of the big adventure? I am grateful for a shot to do something great together. And I want them to win.

Best books I read all year: Paul Graham: Hackers and Painters; Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: Good Omens

Best podcast: The Tim Ferriss Show, Philosophize This!

Best youtube channel: Nerdwriter1, Wisecrack

What are yours?

PS Below is Kim Motley at the Unfinished 2018 in Bucharest. The story of how she extracted a woman forced into seclusion by her family in Afghanistan made me walk to her and say “Hi, you’re the bravest woman I’ve ever met. Need copy?” I later learned Richard Branson called her aspirational. You bet.