And so it happens again that I’m sitting in an airplane somewhere over Northern Africa reflecting over the past year. And boy, what a year! While there was no major event in my life like a job change, location move or a serious illnesses, it was still an action-packed year. It certainly was the year I traveled most, probably an aggregate 5 months*. If I had to give it a theme, it would be the year of enlightenment. Enlightenment, because I finally dared to open my eyes and see the things that had been staring at me but which I couldn’t see because I lacked sufficient courage or confidence. Some things simply take time… apples also don't fall from the tree before they are ripe (isn’t there a saying like that? Well, on that note, sayings remain a weak point… far beyond 2014...).
While I feel that I could write an entire article about each of the things I learned in 2014 (and rest assured I will in due time), I thought it would be much better to make it a quick-read list of what I experienced and what lesson I learned which has validity beyond my own situation!
Persistence always pays off, sometimes
My story: I started out 2014 with two main objectives. One goal related to a person, the other was a goal which required tremendous effort and preparation – a lifelong objective I had been pursuing outside of work. On my first attempt on those two goals, I was best prepared, absolutely dedicated, fully invested. I made the biggest effort imaginable to make them happen. And as it was meant to happen… I was rejected and didn’t get what I wanted. My heart broken, my gut wrenched.
Even though I accepted those outcomes, I was never able to walk away from the “what if”-feeling and the aspiration to try them again. Soon enough, I found myself confronted with the possibility to give each of those goals another go. And so I did. This time, I felt I had learned from my mistakes of my first attempt. I saw myself even more prepared, dedicated and invested. My omnipresent uncertainties of the first time had been converted into unbreakable desires to succeed the second time. Fast forward to today, I succeeded at one of those goals, but failed a second time on the other. Now, a few months later, I look back and I have come to realize that all three things – the victory, the failure, and the timeline around each of them – where the best outcomes that could have happened to me.
The lesson: We like to throw around quotes about how persistence and hard work always pay off. 2014 taught me that this is true only sometimes. I look back on each of those goals and I can confidently say that for each of them I really did everything I could, that I really wanted them, and that I truly thought that both were meant to be. But 2014 showed me that hard work and persistence are just half the rent. The other half is whether something is meant to be or not. Just because I want something really bad, it doesn’t mean that it’s what Life (yes, capital L) has foreseen for me. Who are we to know what is best for us? Sometimes we need to trust "the flow of things,” or Life as I call it.
“Everything that happens to you is the best that could happen to you. If it wasn’t the best, it would have not happened to you"
This experience in 2014 was the perfect example that with hard work you certainly set yourself up for success, but that the final decision is not in your hands, but in the hands of Life.
Planting seeds of passion
My story: Throughout 2013, I had gained several perspectives that others found interesting and which I consequently wanted to share with a wider audience. That’s how I started my blog, ThePositude.com. In addition to writing, I had many other interests like user experience design (UXD), photography, storytelling, public speaking, networking, and many more. So one thing I did throughout 2014, was to "plant seeds of passion.” In a very unstructured manner, I tried to pursue as many different interests as possible.
For my photography, I started to go to meet-ups or licensed some of my pictures to publications and corporations. For my interest in UXD, I took a 3-month course at a well-established institution. For the writing, I published over 35 articles this year. And so on and so forth. The more different things I pursued, the more I realized what were the things that I really felt passionate about (and what were the things that were mere interests). Fast forward to today, while this is still an ongoing process – I have developed a very good understanding of what things I’m really good at and what I think is my calling. At least for now since this idea of planting seeds of passion is ongoing.
The lesson: I think each of us would agree that we have many interests, but that we don’t always know what we are most passionate about or what the number one thing is we are meant to do in our lives. One way to find this out is this notion of “planting seeds of passion.” Basically it means that you take all the interests you have (even if they are completely different) and then pursue them intentionally in form projects that can range in size, length, or impact. The more seeds you plant, the better. Some of these seeds will grow into beautiful flowers, others will die in front of your eyes. And that’s all fine because as you pursue all the things you have some general interest in, you will be able to identify the things that literally keep you awake at night. And as these flowers grow, you will be able to compose a beautiful bouquet that reflects the things you are most passionate about.
When letting go is the only option you are left with
My story: Little did I know how 2014 was going to teach me a very important lesson: some people are meant to enter your life, but not meant to stay in it. That they enter for a reason, namely to teach you something, but no matter how much you want to keep them in your life, that’s not the reason why they entered in the first place.
And that’s exactly what happened to me this year. I had to let go of a person whom I profoundly admired and fondly appreciated, but whose presence and the way I was being treated had become too much of a burden. So much that my willingness to fight was suddenly dominated by the pain from my suffering. And while it was one of the hardest things I had to do, cutting the cord was the only option I was left with. So I cut it.
And as Life likes to handle things, the following weeks and months were riddled by second-guessing. I would question my decision-making ability and think of reasons why I should switch back to fight mode. But as time passed, I learned to embrace my decision and before I knew, my doubts were replaced with certainty. With relief. Even with a sense of gratitude to myself. The fog cleared and I look back wondering what took me so long to make a decision that was way overdue.
The lesson: Some things in life we have to learn in a painful manner. There is no way around it. People can tell you a gazillion times what is best for you based on their own experience, but you won’t reach that same conclusion until you actually undergo the suffering yourself. And yet, while we reach that conclusion and make the decision to move on, Life will come at us, instill doubts, and make us question our decision-making ability. What seemed like the right decision just moments ago quickly turns into “was that the biggest mistake I did in my life?” But that’s just Life’s way of showing us that you are on the right track. Once the storm is over you will look back and be able to admit that sometimes Life doesn’t give us what we want, but what we need.
2014, thanks! 2015, bring it on!
*3xGermany, 2xArgentina, 2xGuatemala, Iran, Chile, Perú, México, Costa Rica, Dubai, Morocco, Toronto, Sydney, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Coachella, Brazil, Austria and England