2017—A Year in Review

JessieAuthentic Business Leave a Comment

Every year, like many humans across the world, I like to take a step back and reflect on all that’s happened in the past ~365 days and try to condense it into bite-sized pieces that I can carry into the new year.

This time, in the name of transparency (and perhaps self-indulgence), I’m dropping the results of my musings right here.

This post is much more personal than others on this blog, and it dives into topics that I haven’t talked about before here—though some may be familiar if you follow along with me on Twitter. You’ve been warned.

And hey, do you do an annual reflection or resolutions post too? If so, feel free to share a link in the comments! I’d love to see what you’re up to.

Notable events of 2017

This was a year of many new things. After getting married toward the end of 2016, this was my husband Rick and my first year together as a married couple. This was also the year that I quit a corporate job (again) to run my own business.

So uh, lotsa stuff happened. But here are some of the highlights:

  • Traveled to South Dakota with Rick to visit extended family ON OUR OWN for the first time.
  • Took some pole dancing classes because why not? Found out it’s super fun, but I’m way weak and those girls are amazing.
  • Spilled cereal milk on my beautiful laptop, and now I have to use an external keyboard because the A, S, and D keys won’t work. Yes, this was a huge event in my life, and I live every day with the tragic consequences.

  • Hosted Rick’s brother and his wife at our house for a visit. Found out how exciting it is to have new family members to hang with. Like, I suddenly have more siblings kinda. Whoa.
  • Finally paid off my library fines from 2014 so I can start taking books out again. THIS WAS A BIG DEAL, GUYS.
  • Put up a Christmas tree in our house together for the first time. Valiantly defended it from the cat.

2017 by the numbers

  • 850+ Followers on Medium—the most I’ve ever had on any social channel, ever. Was a “Top writer in Business and Entrepreneurship” for a short while. And yes, it’s a totally empty metric, but it’s exciting)
  • 6 Client projects tackled with the fervor of a thousand suns (I’ve only been at this a few months)
  • 22 Articles published on this very blog (including this one)
  • 22 emails sent to my lovely subscribers

Books I loved this year

Lessons I learned in 2017

Let’s get into the meaty stuff. Here’s where I practice my grandma voice and share my HARD-EARNED WISDOM WITH YOU YOUNGINS’.

1. Figuring out what you want in life is real, exhausting work

So, real talk—It’s downright scary to fulfill a dream, only to realize it’s not what you actually want.

At the beginning of this year, I was a marketing manager at a successful tech company. It was a dream position I had been working towards for years.

But a few months in, I realized that the reality wasn’t matching the dream, because the dream was poorly thought-out. My overachieving side has decided that the title itself was how I would know if I was making progress in my career. Unfortunately, titles don’t mean much if the daily realities don’t align with what you want.

Naturally, this sparked a quiet frenzy as I tried to figure out what to do. Did I just need to suck it up and dig deeper? Was the problem me? Did I need a new career entirely?

I’ve shared the details of my journey to starting a business in The 6 Steps I Took to Quit My Job and Start Freelancing, but I want to highlight the fact that making the decision to start this business was no walk in the park. If you feel like you’re trapped in a career that isn’t working for you and you can’t see the next step, take this encouragement: Keep experimenting.

Keep learning about yourself. Recognize that finding the next step (let alone taking it) will take significant mental effort and discovery. Instead of feeling crushed, let that knowledge fuel you. The next step will become clear if you put in the work.

2. Consistency pays off

For years, I’ve been trying to keep a regular blog. It’s not only a powerful way of building a reputation, but also a great way to learn. After all, my early foundation of marketing knowledge was formed through blogging about it.

So, when I launched my business this year, I knew it was time to make writing a priority. I’ve since been publishing a post every week. My subscribers get the first look, and then they’re distributed on sites like Inbound.org and Medium.

Let me tell you, it’s been so rewarding. Also, huge thank you to those of you who have taken the time to subscribe and follow along. You guys are my inspiration. <3

The lesson here: Whether it’s blog posts, videos, cold emailing, social media—whatever you do to grow your business, strive for consistency. Even if the pace is slow. Consistency allows you to form habits, and to streamline your process. The results will speak for themselves.

3. My husband is f*cking great

Okay, this one is probably going to be pretty mushy, so if you’re fed up with relationship drivel this holiday season, feel free to skip this.

In the interest of sharing my full, personal reflections, I have to say a few words about my husband. As I mentioned earlier, Rick and I celebrated our first anniversary just a few months ago. It’s been an amazing year of living life side by side, learning about each other, and also learning about ourselves. It’s totally true what they say—a close relationship is like a mirror, and every good and bad piece of yourself becomes crystal clear (Yay! Also, ugh.)

But what I really want to talk about is how much of a support he’s been throughout my business building efforts. I’ve had a few messages come in recently with questions of “How did you do it?!” and I think far too often we see entrepreneurs telling each other “Just do what I did and quit your job!”

I don’t want to be like that with you guys. I want you to know the whole story.

First, know that I am very much still in the process of “doing it.” This business is still a baby. There’s a long way to go.

Second, starting a business is a very different experience when you have a partner who can help with the bills, versus going it alone. Trust me—I’ve done both.

However, even more than the financial aspect, a partner who believes in what you do is an incredible gift. Rick is my voice of reason through the ups and downs, my sounding board, and my biggest cheerleader. It makes a real difference in how I am able to approach my work every day, and I wouldn’t be where I am without his love and support.

So if there’s a lesson here, let it be this: Whether romantic relationships or otherwise, seek out people who respect your abilities and will cheer you on. These may be friends, family, coaches, or mentors. Self-doubt can destroy your business, and it’s endlessly valuable to have someone there who’s able to help you stay on track.

4. The road to a better world is through small conversations

I don’t think I’m alone in becoming acutely, painfully aware of politics this year.

I’ve done the Facebook debate thing. I’ve ventured down the black hole that is Twitter replies. I’ve tried to carefully and boldly present my views online.

What I’ve found, however, is that the most important conversations happen in person.

The way our news is delivered is part of the problem. Specifically, social media. Social media was never designed to be a news platform—it’s designed to give us more of what we like so that we keep coming back. Because views = $$$.

The result? Social media platforms create echo chambers that feed us the same arguments and outrage, over and over.

The only way to escape is to actively expose yourself to ideas that are radically different from your own.

You don’t have to believe them. But you do have to listen.

I’ve been humbled more than a few times when I’ve finally taken the time to listen and discuss issues that I thought were black and white. The most valuable ones happened over dinner, in person. But even online, creating space for positive, respectful information sharing can be far more productive than turning yourself into another opinion broadcaster. Questions like “Why do you believe that?” and “Help me understand” will get you ten times farther than any statement of “I BELIEVE THIS THING.”

Don’t get me wrong–It’s vital to stand for what’s right. But it’s also important to understand the full background of why you think it’s right, and accept that you’ll get it wrong sometimes.

If you’re up for a challenge, ask someone with opposite views from you why they believe what they believe. Their answers may be more nuanced than you expect.

5. Eating vegetarian is, uhh… way easier than it looks

Okay, story time.

About 3 years ago, I started questioning the role of meat in my diet. Why are there so many people against it? Is it actually as healthy as it’s supposed to be? Don’t we all need protein?

…And then I went and cooked up some chicken nuggets. Because they’re delicious.

But fast forward to this year, when Rick and I got seriously into some Netflix documentaries on our food industry. I’d already been cutting out some meat just for the heck of it, but this pushed us over the edge. We decided to try something a little radical:

What if we just stopped buying meat?

I totally recognize that this is a charged topic, so I want to be clear that this was a personal decision, and I think there’s definitely room for moderation. In fact, we’re not even full vegetarian—we still order meat sometimes when we eat out.

But cutting down on meat seemed feasible, and our decision was ultimately led by a few reasons:

  • The sheer volume of CO2 emissions from animal farming is one of the biggest contributors to pollution and climate change (here’s a study if you’re interested).
  • The mainstream food industry is highly unethical in its treatment of animals, pretty much across the board.
  • The nutritional value and quality of meat is so low, and plants are generally a better source of those same nutrients anyway. Including protein.
  • A few generations back, meat was a weekly luxury, not an every-meal ingredient. And I’m seeing a lot of 90+ year olds from that generation. Just sayin’.

The bottom line is I’m floored at how easy it’s been to cut way back on meat just by spending more time in the produce section and trying out some new recipes. Japanese curry, anyone?

What’s coming in 2018

What? You made it to the end? Congratulations, and also my most humble thanks. My reward for you today is a virtual hug, and also a sneak peek at what’s to come in the new year:

  • I’m releasing some new copywriting packages designed specifically for creative entrepreneurs to help you turn your website into the professional, personality-driven sales tool it was always meant to be.
  • I’ll be hosting some free mini-trainings via Facebook Live in the coming months. I’ll probably look like a doofus, so you don’t want to miss this. Get notified—follow my page!
  • I’ll be slowly decreasing my public blog posts and sharing more exclusive trainings, inspiration, and updates with my email subscribers. Be a kool kid and join us using the form below.

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