2011 was undoubtedly the most life-changing year I’ve ever had. I left a job that most people don’t get a chance to have until they’re in their 30′s. I’ve met absolutely amazing people that opened doors I didn’t even know existed. People are no longer in my life that were like family to me just a couple months ago. I’m single for the first time since I got my driver’s license. I co-founded 3 companies and already failed at one of them. I’ve made so many mistakes personally and professionally that it’s mind-blowing that there haven’t been worse consequences.
But most importantly, I’ve learned a lot. Looking forward to 2012, I wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned this past year and what I hope to get out of the coming one.
Lesson: Always be a perpetual optimist.
I used to be the type of person that planned for the worst so that my expectations were never let down. Over time, that changed and I became a perpetual optimist when I came to college. No, not everything always goes my way. But I’ve learned if you take a positive approach to every situation, good things happen to you more often. Being confident makes your optimism a self-fulfilling prophecy if you know how to create your own luck. Perhaps it just seems that way because of your outlook, but either way, it’s a happier way to live your life.
Besides, by virtue of the fact that I’m writing this article from a couch in an air-conditioned home on a laptop puts me among the most fortunate people on the planet. According to the World Bank, 80 percent of the world lives on less than $10 a day. In that context, I’ve got nothing to complain about.
Lesson: Be the most outgoing person on the planet.
This is probably one of the biggest ways I’ve changed in 2011 (okay, it started earlier than that, but 2011 was where it really changed). When I was younger, I was extremely introverted. I was terrified of talking to people that I didn’t already know relatively well. But over the past year, I’ve become the exact opposite. The biggest harbinger of that change was my foray into entrepreneurship.
Be it for feedback on the product itself or impressions on landing page designs, I overcame my introversion by literally going into Starbucks and asking random people for their thoughts. Then I started cold emailing entrepreneurs, writers, investors, etc. that I wanted to know. Eventually it became second nature and I came to enjoy striking up conversations with whoever happened to be around me. Now I have a pretty impressive network of contacts, not to mention a helpful skill to coincide with that whole being single thing!
Resolution: Become better at having negative conversations
I like to make people happy, and I want others to think of me as a genuinely good person. As a result, I hatehaving conversations with negative implications like leaving a job or breaking up with a girlfriend. I spend weeks, if not months, debating whether or not I should do it, and then once I make up my mind I spend even more time avoiding the conversation.
Inevitably, this makes the whole situation worse by dragging it out because I’m not direct and dance around the issue (which is contrary to how open I am about pretty much everything else in my life). I left my last job over the course of two months, and the company that failed had failed well before we decided to call it quits — we just didn’t want to admit it wasn’t working. But these conversations are a necessary part of life. I’ll do both myself and the counterparties to these situations a favor if I simply become better at breaking bad news.
Resolution: Be a source of random good luck for other people
I’m not talking about random acts of kindness like buying someone lunch. I want to stumble across a completely random, unexpected way to help someone in their career or life in a major way. Maybe I have a friend in their industry that gets them their dream job, or I can set up an interview that leads to getting contacted by the type of person they really need. I’d just like to be the reason something life-changing happens to someone.
I can trace some of the biggest successes of 2011 to random introductions that seemed like nothing at the time. But one thing leads to another, and indirectly I have dozens of people to thank for things they probably weren’t even aware happened. I don’t really care if I get credit for it, I’d just like to be able to think I changed someone’s life in the 30 seconds it took me to write an email introduction.
Oh, and did I mention that Fetchnotes and The New Student Union are actually going to start making money?