Our lives are like a wall of Facebook posts -- a collective of experiences, decisions, and opportunities. These posts include special moments, career successes, disastrous letdowns, the infrequent (frequent for some) rant and weird commentary from obscure acquaintances. A click of a nifty thumb icon grants approval by friends, family or fans and can make us reflect on these experiences, decisions, and opportunities. Unlike Facebook, however, our lives do not have the ease of a delete option or a blocking mechanism.
While celebrating another year and soaking up my collective results -- albeit not always with the anticipated outcomes -- I made a promise to myself to step to the side and assess my mélange of ups and downs.
About a year ago, I started asking myself random questions:
- Am I happy with where I am in my career?
- Am I satisfied with my personal life?
- How do I improve?
- Do I need a change of scenery?
- Do I need to be challenged more professionally?
- Am I making a difference at home? In this world?
It's not that life was humdrum and I needed an escape route -- but really? I get to corral media, strategically brag about clients and provide germane advice for the next 25 years and retire? As an introvert -- diagnosed by multiple Facebook tests and scenario-type analyses -- I live in my head. A lot. This means my conversation about everything up until this point and what the next 33 years will look like, practically existed in my head.
In the process of accepting some of the chasm-causing blunders I have made in both my personal life and professional career, and appreciating the amazing connections and advances that have graced my 33 years on this journey, I noticed that I was among other 30-somethings with a curious head tilt. The tilt, an indulgence in assessing their lives and journeys, intrigued me.
I started to open up to friends, my inner circle -- some in the same profession, others doing groundbreaking work, educators with letters after their names, my circle of change makers. I was surprised and equally comforted by their responses. I learned they asked the same questions, had similar outlooks on the future and was honest about their own imperfections -- and not just talking about their imperfections, but revealing their own vulnerabilities. A brilliant sage of the OPRAH-dom, Dr. Brené Brown poignantly said in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are: "It reminds me that our imperfections are not inadequacies; they are a reminder that we're all in this together."
My year's worth of discussions culminated in Dr. Brown's quote and it is this same self-actualization I have found in my contemporaries. Through great books, articles, tweets and discussions between friends and colleagues, I feel like my generation, the Millennials and Y-ers, are more in tune with life from a younger age.
These casual and often deep conversations with my friends left me feeling great, not just about my place in life, but about what this generation will continue to bring to life. I had effortless "Aha!" moment dialogues and it made me realize that this generation while looking for their purpose, already knows that they want to do and be more -- in every way. When our time comes, we want to leave a better world.
This generation was raised alongside technology; we are able to grasp the World's problems and solutions, literally in our palms. We get to share in our struggles and celebrate in solutions. We get to be global in our thinking and local in our approach and application. This generation will help to bridge the gorge between modernization and globalization and our daily practices, this precious environment, even with cultures falling silent across continents and oceans. I believe this generation will demand it.
While we continue to hone our practices, deepen our own self-reflections, we still have much to learn, understand and champion. I created some guidelines to continue to keep me focused on this journey. These nodes of advice are applicable to many situations.
Remember. While we are mavericks in innovation and engagement, and more connected and learned through technology, we must remember that the generation before us possesses something we lack (for the most part) -- years of experience. Granted, we have the ability to cause change, but we must learn and observe first in order to be effective.
Connect. Face to face -- we are more connected to the world than ever before. Yet there are so many disconnects between people and we lose the innate intuitiveness we are born with because of our lack of personal interactions. The human experience is only an experience if we connect -- human to human.
Do Not Compare. For years, I would compare myself to others. Who am I kidding? I still do it. I'm still working on this. Another OPRAH-dom expert, Iyanla Vanzant, could not have been more succinct in a quote from her latest book, Peace from Broken Pieces: "Comparisons are a form of violence. When you believe you are not good enough, you will compare yourself to others." Heavy! We all do it. Stop it (Adrian, you too)!
Listen. I learned in the last year to listen. Not just to words or to those more experienced, but to myself. Listen to me. Our gut instinct is the most primal and the most modern tool we have to do better: in life, in our profession, in the way we build our communities. Listen to it and trust it.
There is so much to do in this world. When I think about everything that can be done I get overwhelmed and excited all at once. For my contemporaries, let's remember to be more introspective, less harsh on ourselves with our follies and less aggrandizing with our accomplishments. Listen, do not compare, connect and remember -- we have a purpose.