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Recapping 2023 Part 2 — Personal Lessons Learned (Thinks Out Loud Episode 407)

Woman walking into sunset to illustrate lessons learned in 2023

Hey, Big Thinkers. It’s time to close out 2023. But before we go, it’s worth taking a look back at what I’ve learned — or at least had reinforced for me in the past year. 2023 has been an amazing year, filled with lots of happiness, laughter, and, sure, the occasional challenge. But overall, I’m incredibly fortunate to have had a year filled with more triumph than tragedy.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t learned anything in the past year. What are those lessons? What has helped me improve over the course of the year? And how can you apply those lessons in your life? I hope you’ll enjoy this episode of the Thinks Out Loud podcast that tries to answer those questions.

Here are the show notes for you:

Recapping 2023 (Pt. 2) — Personal Lessons Learned (Thinks Out Loud Episode 407) Headlines and Show Notes

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You might also enjoy this webinar I recently participated in with Miles Partnership that looked at "The Power of Generative AI and ChatGPT: What It Means for Tourism & Hospitality" here:

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Transcript: Recapping 2023 (Pt. 2) — Personal Lessons Learned

Well, hello again everyone and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud. Your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is episode 407 of The Big Show. Oh my gosh, 407 of these. I’m as stunned as anybody that we’ve done so many.

But thank you so much for tuning in. Thanks for being here. I think we’ve got a fun show for you today. This is definitely a different show than what we might normally do. It is also our last show of the year. We’re at the end of the year. I’m recording this Wednesday, December 20th. And this is the last new episode that we will do this year.

We will do a revisiting episode next week and also the following week. The first week of January 2024. But I think we’ve got some good ones decked up for you. So I hope you will. Enjoy those while you’re also enjoying some down time with friends and family and loved ones over the next couple of weeks.

At the end of the year, You know, it’s a, it’s a strange time for me. I’m not one for looking back too much. To paraphrase Edna Mode from the film The Incredibles, I prefer to focus on the now, darling. I like to look ahead. But, you know, it’s the end of the year. My birthday was just a week ago. It’s easy to get reflective at this time of year.

And I’d like to kind of talk about some of the things that I’ve learned over the course of the year using a very specific framing that I hope you’ll appreciate. I hope you’ll enjoy. As I stated last week, it’s been a great year, not just professionally, personally too, it’s really been a terrific, terrific year.

One of the things that I accomplished this year, which is a combination of professional and personal, I mentioned that I’d completed the manuscript for my first book, which will be out in 2024, called Digital Reset, Driving Marketing and Customer Acquisition Beyond Big Tech. I have been working on this for a long time in various forms.

So this is a huge accomplishment. Having the manuscript done, having it getting ready for publication, just is such a good feeling. And I’ve learned a lot through that process. iT’s also really nice to have that monkey off my back, right? You know, there are people that ask me for some time, Hey, how’s the book coming?

How’s the book coming? So it’d be really nice to have that in, in a physical form fairly soon. The other thing that’s been interesting and has colored a lot of what I’ve done over the course of the year is That I started taking improv classes improv comedy. I’ve completed a couple of levels of classes at a local improv theater.

Participated in a couple of showcases. And I want to be very clear, it is not my ambition to become an improv performer. I’m not going to chuck all of the consulting, or all of the writing, or all of the teaching. For all of the board work and suddenly say, Oh, this is my new career. Let me be really, really clear about that.

It is super fun. It’s a tremendous outlet and I’m meeting so many amazing, creative, wonderful people and many of the lessons that some of them I’ve learned over the course of the year, and some of them have just been reinforced. are so easy to frame in improv terms. And that’s kind of what I want to do with the rest of this show, if you don’t mind.

It’s helping my mindset so much. You know, you’re probably familiar with this idea. I’m sure you’ve heard at some point that one of the core rules of improv is this idea of saying, yes, and. When, when a specific performer makes an offer, when they say something, your job as a performer is to say yes and to that.

Yes and I want to build on that. Which, great, that’s terrific. I realize that’s not always going to work in real life. Sometimes the people you’re talking to might say something kind of foolish, and you don’t want to go yes to that, right? You need to say, hold on a second, does this make sense for our business, or does this make sense in my life?

So, improv isn’t the real world from that perspective. At the same time, it is built the idea of yes and. Is built on listening, on deep listening. You have to be truly present to know what it is you’re saying yes and to. And that’s just as true in life as it is in improv. You know, when people are talking to you, it’s so important to be present.

Not that we don’t know this, but it’s a great system for learning how to be more present. Because I’m really listening not to reply. I’m not listening to give my objections. I’m not listening to tell them why I think that’s a bad idea. I’m listening to say yes and. It’s encouraging me to be more patient, more focused, more present in the moment.

Again, focus on the now. That’s a massive benefit for me. I think it’s a massive benefit for the people in my life too, because they’re getting more of my attention, right? It’s also making me happier and more engaged with the work around me or the world around me. Excuse me. I’m sure some of that, some of that happier spirit comes from getting on the other side of the pandemic.

That undoubtedly helps. This however is providing a very specific framework, a very specific tool that I can use in my life. To be more present and listen. And when we talk about being more present, I gotta be honest, doing improv is way more fun than meditation. Right? It’s just a great way to be in the moment and learning how to apply that skill more effectively in my day to day life.

Of course, another thing you’ve undoubtedly heard about improv, and that people always talk about with improv, is the idea of embracing failure. The funny thing about improv is, unlike Apollo 13, failure is always an option. Part of the fun is watching performers paint themselves into a corner with increasingly ridiculous yes and’s, and then finding a way to work out of that corner, finding a way to work out of that mess.

You learned better how to be cool with it. How to understand that failure is just a thing that happens. Literally, in the first classes I took, we celebrated failures, literally celebrated them, applauding and cheering one another to become comfortable and learn how to embrace failure as, if not a positive, at least just a thing.

You learn how to simply move past it and keep going. You yes and the failure, too. It’s just a thing. You move on. And that’s an incredible life lesson. Obviously, it’s one I think we’ve all learned at some point or other, but it’s amazing to have that reinforced regularly. The other thing that’s really interesting about both the yes and and the failure, because they relate to one another in business.

Is as you progress in your career or as you progress in life, it’s easy to say no. It’s easy to fall back to no as a default. In many cases, there are a lot of incentives for you to say no. As you get older, as you get more successful, as you move forward in your career, as you build, you know, a portfolio, as you build your family, the scale and the scope of your decisions are larger.

So the risks are bigger, and you’ve usually learned by a certain point in your life and in your career that, as you’ve heard me say, when you build the ship, you build the shipwreck. It’s important and necessary to recognize the risks of the shipwreck. And at least try to find a way to mitigate them. We may all be improvising at life every day, but obviously we don’t live our life on a stage.

We don’t live our lives in a safe theater environment where there’s no real risk to some of our decisions. You also can’t let yourself become reflexively negative. You can’t let yourself reflexively say no. You don’t want to shut people down. Absolutely failure can happen. And absolutely, you should be thinking about ways to mitigate those failures, but also to celebrate them when they occur and keep moving forward in a positive way.

To keep yes ending the ideas and the creation process, because that’s going to lead to better outcomes in the long term. One of the lessons we talk about in class all the time, and this is something I think I tend to do, but is this idea of making big choices. I don’t like looking for a 10 percent improvement.

Because if you get it, well great, you got 10 percent better. But if you miss it, what happened? Did you stay flat? Did you turn negative or something along those lines? I like looking for the 10x improvement. You know, don’t just go for the increments. Think big. You can always scale back your ambitions or you can scale back your tests and your pilots as you say, okay, well, we can only bite off this piece of it at the moment.

But you always want to keep your eye on the prize in terms of thinking big. It’s also super fun to think even bigger and to be in an environment that encourages that. Create some space for yourself to try some big ideas, to think bigger. Give it a shot. Try 10x thinking as you move into the new year and look for opportunities to say, how can we go bigger still?

Yeah, you might scale back a little, but it’s okay. Start with a big idea. Give yourself that freedom to play, because you’ll come up with ideas that never even occurred to you before. I know that I’ve been coming up with all kinds of ideas. That might not have occurred to me before by being open to big choices more regularly.

Another huge lesson, which again, this isn’t something you don’t know, this isn’t something I don’t know, but it’s a great framing for it, is improv really talks a lot about ensemble. The ensemble and the importance of the ensemble. Which is more than just teamwork. It is teamwork, but it’s co creation. If you’ve ever seen improv, there’s no director, there’s no script.

There’s only the loosest possible setup for the given scene that you’re working on. Which is great, because everybody’s free to provide input, and because you’re yes ending it, all you’re trying to do is create something cool, create something new, create something really impressive. You listen to your other team members and see where it takes you.

It’s a funny thing, because my high school headmaster Always said that nothing pissed him off more than someone whose approach to life was, you know, ha ha, your end of the boat is sinking. I mean, really, there is nothing worse than someone who thinks they don’t have to be part of the solution. In improv, it doesn’t work.

And it doesn’t work in life either. It is so cool to get to collaborate with a group of people committed to creating something great where it doesn’t matter who the star is, the end result is all that matters. You know, in improv, it’s all about bringing the fun in. With the people I work with, it’s all about coming up with a great idea, coming up with something that solves a problem with for a client.

In my family, it’s about, you know, how do we get what we all want and we’re all happy with and we’re all in a good place. It’s such a cool, cool lesson to learn and apply. And then the last thing, and this one’s going to come from left field, I think, a little bit, but it’s all about the importance of laughter, which again, I told you this was going to be a personal focus, not necessarily a business focus, but hang with me here for a second.

It’s no secret that I enjoy humor. Anybody who knows me knows that I like having fun. I like telling jokes. I like keeping things loose. Obviously, in a work context, I’m completely fine with making the tough call and having difficult conversations when needed. I also think it’s important that we maintain perspective.

I’ve met too many people in my career who think that the way you’re successful is to be a hard ass all the time. That every situation is, you know, something that must be dealt with, you know, with authority. And I just never really bought that. Not every situation is a crisis. Yeah, you deal with it, you learn from it, you put the learning to work, and you move forward.

You save losing your cool or being a hard ass. For the times when it’s truly necessary, when there’s a legitimate big issue that needs to be dealt with, and even then you can probably approach it with compassion and with a spirit of generosity and get a better result than if people are afraid they’re going to get their heads ripped off.

You know, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have difficult conversations. It doesn’t mean that every difficult conversation is something to be joked about. It’s not. But you can certainly approach it in a very human way. And in a way that’s, you know, I think more effective in the long run. What’s really cool, though, is the classes I’ve taken give me the opportunity to join with a group of folks once a week and simply laugh for a couple of hours.

You know, we get a great opportunity to just laugh. It’s a fantastic experience. It’s a fantastic exercise. I don’t mean taking an improv class though. I very much have enjoyed that. I mean the ability to just laugh with people. We should all laugh more in the new year. Yes, there’s a ton of terrible news in the world.

Yes, we should take the terrible things that occur around the world and in our own backyards seriously. I don’t mean we should bury our heads in the sand and not be serious in the places that require it. We should take our work efforts and our processes and our outputs seriously. We should take our relationships seriously.

We also should look for places to create a space where it’s okay to create, to think big thoughts, and yes, to laugh every week. Do it. Get around other people. Find something where you can have a chance to laugh with one another. You’ll feel better. I know that I do. It is the cheapest therapy I have ever heard of, right?

There is an old expression that laughter is the best medicine. And let me tell you, it’s been good for my heart and good for my head all year long. So that’s what I’ve learned this year. And it’s what I hope you get an opportunity to do more of in the new year. You know, more listening, more finding ways to celebrate and learn from failure.

More opportunities to make big choices and learn from those. More embracing of the ensemble, more embracing the team, and the outcome, and the process. And most of all, laughing. Getting a chance to laugh with people you enjoy, and people you love, and surround yourself with other folks who like to laugh along with you.

I personally cannot wait to see what next year teaches me, and I really, really can’t wait to hear what next year teaches you, too. So I hope you have very happy holidays. I hope you have a Merry Christmas. I hope you have a healthy, happy, prosperous new year, and I can’t wait to talk with you here on the Thinks Out Loud next time.

Until then, please be well, be safe, and as always, take care everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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