2019 Year in Review

I ended my 2018 Year in Review with the intention that for 2019, “I will stay focused on my priorities of my family and my coaching, and will figure out the rest from there within the remaining capacity that I have.” And that turned out to be a good summary of how I spent my 2019.

It’s unsurprising that I prioritized family as a first-time parent, reserving most of my evenings and weekends for family time. We also spent three months traveling together as a family across three separate trips. We had the luxury and privilege to travel like that, thanks to well-paying tech companies with generous parental leave policies, and I am so glad that we invested the resources to spend that time together to grow closer as a family.

In terms of prioritizing coaching, I’ve already described my coaching journey that led me to quit Google in July of 2019 to build my coaching business. Focusing on coaching full-time meant walking away from the compensation and status of working at Google. As Steve Jobs observed,

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.

While there are many valuable things I could be doing at Google or other tech companies, I said no to all of those possibilities to prioritize coaching. But to do that, I had to let go of worrying about how I was perceived by others or about how much money I made. I realized that working in tech was not fully aligned with the person I wanted to be, and that coaching allowed me to be more authentic. I have been pleased with how my coaching business has grown since I left Google, but I am not yet at full capacity, so please send me referrals if you know a high performer who feels stuck or is going through a career transition where they could use my help.

So prioritizing family and coaching is the brief summary of 2019 – since I don’t have my normal set of crazy activities to recount (other than a week-long bikecamping tour of the Lost Coast), I’d like to share a 2019 learning and a 2020 intention instead.

My main learning in 2019 was how I can control much of my experience, because what I see and feel in a situation is highly dependent on my own history and prejudices. One example is that when an event happens, my emotional response will depend on the expectations I had before the event. If what happens is what I expected, then I barely notice it. If my expectations are not met, then I am disappointed or frustrated. If my expectations are exceeded, then I am delighted. So even though I can’t control what happens, managing my expectations can affect how I experience what happens. This is not a new learning by any means as I have seen it in sources as varied as Tibetan Buddhist sayings that are more than a thousand years old, the hidden commitments of the Immunity to Change methodology, and books like The Last Word on Power by Tracy Goss and You Are What You Say, by Matthew Budd.

Even though this is ancient wisdom, I felt like I experienced this learning in new ways in 2019. I spent a few months agonizing over the decision to leave Google because I felt I wouldn’t be a “good provider” and it would be “irresponsible” for me to leave a well-paying job when I’m a new father…but once I freed my mind from these “shoulds”, it became an easy decision to execute – it was only my own beliefs that made it hard. I’ve already shared how I learned greater acceptance on my bikepacking trip through embracing the challenges of biking up steep dirt roads with a loaded bike, and camping in primitive conditions each night. On the flip side, I found it illuminating to see how my personality challenges such as finding it difficult to relax and enjoy (instead feeling like I “should” be doing something) followed me throughout our family travels – they are carried within me and changing where I was just had them show up in different ways.

Beyond my own experience, identifying and working with such limiting beliefs became a core focus of my coaching practice this year. When a client feels they don’t have any options in a situation, that might be true within their current set of beliefs that constrain them. Helping others to identify their limiting beliefs can lead to breakthroughs as they realize they have possibilities that were blocked by those beliefs e.g. “You mean I don’t have to wait for my manager to explicitly give me permission?” or “Doing more myself isn’t the only way to advance my career?” And my clients often noticed that those limiting beliefs were showing up in all aspects of their lives, not just at work, so working with those beliefs had a wide-ranging impact.

So my intention for 2020 is to go deeper in exploring this space, both in re-training my own reality by reshaping my limiting beliefs and associated behaviors, and in learning new ways to coach others in identifying and working with theirs. Some options I’m currently considering include:

I’d love to hear if you have other suggestions on how to train my mind to identify and shift limiting patterns and beliefs.

Besides that, I will continue in 2020 to focus on my family and on growing my coaching business. I will do that by getting clear on who I want to serve (my family, my communities and my clients), and how I will serve them (What does service to my family entail? What communities will I lead and convene? How will I serve the remarkable clients I want to attract?). Working on my limiting beliefs, as above, will allow me to see more possibilities for service to both my family and my clients.

For example, one such belief that I’m currently working with is that challenging people is unlikeable. This shows up in my coaching in that I want my clients to like me, so I sometimes avoid challenging them directly; however, my job as a coach is not to be liked, but to help my clients move forward, and challenging them is often the best way to help them. This shows up in my family as me sometimes not challenging my wife when we disagree on a situation for fear that she won’t like my perspective; but an open and honest discussion is clearly better than me staying quiet and resentful about a decision with which I disagree. This insight is obvious when I say it, but my habitual patterns and reactions built over time steer me to avoid challenging others. I am working to become more aware of those patterns when they occur and slowly training new reactions so that when I feel that impulse to avoid, I am learning to lean into my discomfort and challenge instead, which will likely make me a better coach and husband.

So that’s my summary of 2019 and my intention for 2020. What did you learn in 2019? Where do you want to go deeper in 2020?

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