It's been a crazy, exciting, sad, fulfilling, awesome, challenging, happy, and amazing 2014. I started the year by marrying my best friend on New Year's Eve while at the same time raising thousands of dollars for a charity we adore. In January, I made a life-changing business decision that would alter the course of my life and business forever... and the lives and businesses of hundreds of others. Later that month I lost my dear friend, Pat, who I had worked with for decades -- she was more like family... as most of my coworkers are. In April, my partner and I implemented a massive rebrand of our real estate firm consisting of more than 200 real estate agents. My summer was a roller coaster of emotions, challenges, wins, and losses. My 5-year-old daughter started school in the fall as we celebrated the two-year anniversary of her last seizure. Along the way I interviewed and wrote about so many amazing entrepreneurs that I lost count, while simultaneously building a support network of business leaders who have my back and who are as committed to my success as I am. It's been a bumpy yet exciting year. Here are the seven lessons learned in 2014.
1. Good Days and Bad Days -- The good and bad days go hand and hand. If there were no bad days, then there couldn't be great days. Therefore, I've learned to remind myself... especially on days when life and work are just so hard.... that those difficult days were designed to make the great days that much better. You cannot rejoice in the feeling of winning without having first experienced the pain of defeat.
2. Looking In The Mirror -- We are all human. As humans we hate to admit that on some level we are failures in some way. Nobody is perfect. When I went through the rebranding of my firm there were some agents who I had been with forever who left. Some had even been at my wedding just days before. They left me when I needed them most. My first response to the loss what that THEY were wrong in leaving me. My next response was to blame others... "My previous franchise is spreading lies!" But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized, that I was not perfect. I could have handled things differently. The difference between good and great is in one's ability to look in the mirror and realize that you are the byproduct of where you stand right now. Nobody can take fault for your life, your situation, or your current predicament, but you. The difference between great and mastery is in one's ability to poke and prod at a given situation to realize that (1) you can't change the past, but (2) you can learn something about yourself in every situation which can benefit you and your relationships going forward.
3. Cherish -- As a business leader, I've learned to cherish those who have given me a chance, because nobody in the world is obligated to give anyone a chance. Equally important, I've learned to understand those who didn't give me a chance, because nobody in the world is obligated to give anyone a chance. When you feel hurt by people, I think the tendency is to shy away from people all together, at risk of more hurt. However, I've found better luck by bringing people closer to me... cherishing, loving them, and giving them more of me. My advice to anyone who has ever felt hurt is to surround yourself with people who care about you. Lean into them and give them more of you.
4. We Are All The Same -- We live in a world of labels. White, black, male, female, lesbian, gay, police officer, pedestrian -- labels are awful because they separate. Any word that separates me from you has no use in my vocabulary...because you and I are both human... we are the same. When I rebranded my company I came to learn that sometimes brands are like labels too. A brand should just be a product offering, like some people like Coke and some people like Pepsi. When I rebranded my real estate company, leaving a franchise after 14 years, I learned that too many people use brand to differentiate and if that's what branding is all about, I want no part of it. Unfortunately, I lost friends because I work for a different brand than I used to. Lines were drawn. People took sides... which brand are you with? Shouldn't we love and respect one another no matter what brand we have on our business card? If we were friends one year ago and nothing has changed but the name on my business card, shouldn't we still be pals? Brands are meant to be product offerings... a value proposition... a menu of services offered by a company. A brand is not meant to be a label to separate people. I like the Red Sox... and I love and respect you the same even if you love the Yankees.
5. Business and Friendships -- Employees, agents, co-workers... they are all friendships. There's no line between business and friendship... they are all the same. We do business with, we work with, ands we buy and sell to friends... period. In life there are different levels of friendship. I am friends with 100 percent of the people I work with. Some are closer than others... as is true about friendship in general. I've learned this year that I don't want to work with people who I don't consider friends... in fact I think it's the difference between good companies and great ones. I love hanging out with, having lunch with, and just chatting with every single co-worker because they are not just co-workers they are my friends.
6. Inner Circle -- Build your inner circle of people who are going to stick with you no matter what. Start with just one or two and then expand it. Your inner circle people are the ones that are absolutely, positively, no questions asked, standing by your side no matter what happens. Your spouse and kids are a great place to start building and then slowly start adding one person at a time. An inner circle is built by trust... trust them with your dreams, secrets, desires, and challenges. Trust them. More importantly... be trustworthy. Listen to their dreams, secrets, desires, and challenges and be their advocate. Commit to helping them live out their greatest aspirations. Your inner circle is the foundation of your life. You need to build this to live happily in a stressful world. There's no limit to how many you include in this inner circle and you want it to expand over time. Just remember, that the key to your happiness is in helping them find theirs.
7. Gamble On You -- This year I made the biggest decision of my business career when deciding to rebrand my real estate firm. It was hard because it wasn't something that just effected me... I was altering the course of an entire real estate market, and asking hundreds of agents to believe that together we could do something awesome. Although I will say that 2014 was my hardest year ever... it was also the most rewarding. I got to see what I was made of and I got to see the resiliency, power, and determination of hundreds of people around me. Together I'd say we created a revolution in the real estate world in New England. I hope that every single person who reads this gets the opportunity to be part of a movement... a revolution of some kind someday. Just know this... the only way to be part of one is to bet on you. At least once in this short little life do something so bold, so audacious, so over the top... that when you are 100 years old looking back on life you'll chuckle to yourself and say, "Holy Shit... I really did that!"
Happy New Year!
Photo Credit: Charlie Pasewark Photography