The Invaluable Lessons of 2017


With so much family in town over the holidays, it’s taken me a while to decompress and truly process what happened in 2017. As I said a few weeks ago, it had extreme highs and lows.

I began the year with my first Super Bowl and a trip with my son to the slopes in Utah for his first snowboarding experience. As work stress crept in by April, I got my “fix” with my first trip to Asheville, N.C., to hike on 30 miles of beautiful trails through waterfalls. Beyond these “firsts” was a life-changing experience to Africa. I have visited many developing nations, but this experience was like no other. It was my first trip to Uganda and second to Kenya. Witnessing the harshness of extreme poverty, and what day-to-day survival looks like for both humans and wild animals, affected me in ways I hadn’t expected. The incredible tenacity, hope and resilience I saw filled my heart with gratitude for the gifts in my life and compelled me to make an even bigger difference in others’ lives.

I left that trip mentally exhausted, knowing that I needed to reflect about my own life. It was time to take a closer look at what I said I wanted in my life relative to what I was actually doing. As I attempted to process all of this over the next two months, I injured both ankles twice (another “first”). After some excruciating therapy, I finally stopped and asked, “What is my body trying to tell me about my life?”

I knew in my gut that it was saying that it was time to just stop. I had been tolerating too much for too long. It was well beyond the time to make some tough decisions. So, I made some big changes —including unwinding from a business partnership that I knew wouldn’t work in the long run, revamping my inner circle of support, shifting some of the personal relationships in my life and realigning my volunteer work with my passion.

I walked away from 2017 with so many more lessons than I had bargained for. (There really should be a limit on these for a single year.) I’m sharing them with you today because they may spark some important self-reflection or simply help you notice that you’re not on your journey alone.

  • Clarify what you really want in your life. It’s amazing who and what will show up when you do this.

  • One person can make a difference – and that one person is you.

  • A high pain threshold, while a formidable strength, can make you tolerate things far longer than you should. Stop tolerating less than you deserve.

  • Trust your gut. Most of the time, you already know what to do. Sometimes you simply need to just give yourself permission to do it.

  • Let go of the need to proactively shape every outcome, especially if you’re used to taking the bull by the horns. Sometimes you just need to allow things to unfold. Balance “doing” with “being.”

  • Sunk costs will hold you hostage if you let them. Take the lessons from your painful “investment” and use them to make different choices with your newly developed wisdom.

  • When your body is screaming at you, stop and listen. What is it saying that you need to change in your life?

The year turned out so differently than I expected. My big decisions late in the year dramatically shifted things, personally and professionally. Miraculously, it turned out to be a record-breaking year for my business. And one of the last emails I received in December was from the Dallas Business Journal informing me that I would be honored with the Minority Business Leader Award in 2018. My son also had an amazing year. I’m so unbelievably proud of who he is as a person and what he’s accomplished academically and in sports. It has been the easiest transition to middle school. I’m not sure I could have predicted any of this.

So, now it’s time to shift the focus to you. What one lesson do you want to put into practice for yourself, whether it’s from my list above or one of your own? Take five minutes right now to think about it and identify one step you will take this week. And, as always, remember that small steps can lead to big results.