Reflecting on 2010, Causes and Effects

2010 was a pretty big year for me. Every year has felt that way, but I really believe this last year will prove to be a milestone for me in a number of ways. I won’t be able to do it justice since I lack the perspective needed to appreciate what’s happened, but here are what have been the big leaps along my learning journey.

I took command of my career.

While I have kept myself mentally challenged and fit over the last several years, I can’t help but look back at my work before this year as me more or less reacting to my situations, instead of being the driving force behind them.

I believe I think “big” thoughts. It’s very difficult, and frustrating, to have big ideas and see them time and again crushed because of the role I had in an organization, or the environment wasn’t right for it, or the timing was off, or… OR… OR… OR….. In April of this year, I built up the courage (and the network) to take some big ideas and make them happen, and this has been the best year of my career.

That’s not to say it’s been perfect, or easy or even without its sacrifices. Since joining my friends at Problem Solutions, becoming its CLO and taking on the responsibilities for Community Management for ADL, it’s been a whirlwind. When I look back at what all I actually did this year, I have to think that it’s very much a result of asserting the kind of person I want to be, rather than responding in some way to the role I believe someone is casting for me.

What did I do this year? I spoke at like eight different conferences. Last year I spoke at two. The year before (and every year before that since 2003): one. I helped to resuscitate an organization. In the first month of 2011, ADL will begin doing what I came back to do — help the industry look beyond SCORM.

Important to me, personally, I’ve done this working on a team of people who were already friends, and through this work, I’ve made so many MORE friends. Not the Facebook “friends” — the real ones who will lend you their couch, ask you to go camping with them, drive two hours to pick you up at the airport (or take you back), rearrange plans because you happen to be in-town just to have a beer, stay an extra day on your own expense while on travel just to ideate over coffee — those kind of friends.

I spent the last year putting most of the pieces I need in place to make the next phase happen. It took compromise, negotiation, picking and choosing some battles, and taking licks that may not even be mine to take. I wouldn’t have ever known how to do this had I not been in the wake of so many effects in my career until now.

If you’ve ever been caught in a wake in the middle of open water, the important thing is to keep swimming, treading water and, at the very least, float. Useful skills: like it or not, I’ll always need to have them. Up until this year, that’s all I did. Then I decided to start driving the boat, and that was pretty scary — but as I keep piloting bigger boats this year, it gets easier and easier.

I know there are more than a few people who have connected with me through this blog, through Twitter (even through Facebook) and now in-person because of the unbelievable good fortune I’ve had to share conference experiences with so many of you this year. I want to write directly to you guys for these few sentences — not as some preachy know-it-all type who comes off as a bad Tony Robbins sound-alike, but as your friend and buddy who has been where you’re at, knows your frustration, knows how trapped you might feel — and did something about it and it worked out okay so far.

I know you feel like you lack options. I know you feel like “they” will never get it.

You always have options. They may not be attractive, but you are in command of you.

Most of the time “they” will never get it. What they don’t get is always going to be an opportunity for your big ideas. Whatever it is you’re doing that “they” don’t get, they can obstruct you, but if you know it’s the right thing, they can’t stop you. Only you will stop you.

I know you get frustrated because you feel like you’re on your own.

You’re not alone. OMG you will not believe that there are so many of us — thousands — who are working with you. If you think you’re completely onto something new, something insane, something frightening — if you think you’re in a dark place by yourself in your career (or in other aspects of your life)… WHATEVER IT IS THAT HAS YOU THINKING YOU’RE ALONE, YOU ARE NOT.

My adventures have taught me this much: there are hundreds (if not thousands) of people who are in the same situation you are, coming up with the same ideas you are, facing the same challenges you are.

The biggest challenge I had was finding people who were fighting the fights I was fighting. I didn’t find them all where I worked. I found most of them outside of where I worked. When we connected, sparks lit up. As we’ve grown more threaded and connected, we’ve had more ideas — stronger, more actionable plans.

If you are reading this blog post you found me. There are hundreds, if not thousands, more — all smarter than me, better connected than me, nicer than me, fatter than me (wait… not fatter than me) — and if you get the resolve you need to be the cause, rather than merely the effect, you will find so many of us will swarm to put the wind to your back and help you move your vision forward.

Be the cause of your fate, my friends — don’t just be the effect of another’s fate. That’s my wish for you.

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