I say every year about this time that this is the last post for the year, but invariably something strikes me over the holidays and another blog post appears. But in keeping with tradition, I'll say it again: This is the last blog post for the year!

As with so much of like right now, 2011 seems on one hand as if it were about 4 weeks long, yet on the other hand, last December seems like 10 years ago.

I don't know that I've seen a scientific explanation for why that's the case. I suspect it's because of the increase in the speed and number of inputs that fly at us all the time. The speed of it all makes time seem to fly by while we still process the 10 years worth of stuff now going past us in a single year as feeling as if it were 10 years. That's my unscientific theory, at least.


The first half of 2011 was defined by a large social media strategy project for a client that seemed to be in a routine state of flux regarding what we needed to deliver. The second part of the year was consumed with the Google Fiber / Gigabit City project. And the last month has been a time where I've been saying to myself, "What just happened here with 2011?"

Amid that disorienting period of reflection, here's my quick review of 20 business and personal lessons from 2011, along with 12 goals for the new year of 2012. It's all subject to change, but it's a starting point for a year that is tough for me to describe or pin down with one defining statement.

20 Lessons from This Year

1. When you get what you want, it may not look or feel like anything you expected. If things don't feel right, first make sure it's not simply the unexpected parts of what you wanted before you try to fix it.

2. On the other hand, quit putting off fixing what clearly is leading you off the path you need to be on with your life and career.

3. There are people who either can't or don't want to be helped. It's okay to quit wasting time for both of you in trying to help these people.

4. If you can imagine what you have before it's gone, it will change what you think is important right now, even if its importance isn't matched by present day fulfillment.

5. More risk. More smart risks. More smart, high potential risks. More smart, high potential, challenging risks. Start a risk list - risks you need to take and the proof points the risks you took paid off, even if they didn't seem to at the time.

6. Just showing up somewhere often isn't going to get results. How much you're willing to put yourself through productive pain and what you're doing when you're not physically there are huge factors in your success.

7. We can love distractions too much. That's why it's so hard to eliminate them.

8. My dad stopped working in my grandfather's barbershop pretty early in life because he realized he was only making money when he was showing up and cutting hair. The downsides to the barbershop model extend to other businesses that may seem attractive, but are just as limiting.

9. If you don't watch out, the craziest person in a team or organization will control the agenda.

10. There are a whole slew of things where other people are better than you in very profound ways. That doesn't make it wrong to admit that in a few situations the tables are turned, and you should act accordingly.

11. A long time ago, I wrote a song with the line, "What have I done to ease the suffering of the stranger who you will later meet?" Of anything I've ever written, that line sticks with me. I don't have a good answer to the question.

12. In time-based sports, great teams use time outs wisely. There's no shame in calling a time-out.

13. There's creative value in being good at selectively turning off your knowledge of what works and what doesn't. There's also value in being good at selectively turning on the WTF switch in your brain.

14. Some life and career seeds take a LONG time to sprout. Plant a lot of seeds, but not more than you can pay attention to and cultivate.

15. When you re-consider possibilities you didn't pursue and still believe you're in the right place even with the challenges you do have, it's reassuring.

16. It's incredibly rewarding to see your former "business kids" move to really imaginative places in their careers, even if you do miss them a lot.

17. It's challenging, but in the game of life, you may have to dramatically change the type of player you are well into the game. You have to surround yourself with the right influences in your life to force the necessary changes to happen.

18. There are some incredible people in my past. For as much as I tried to resist spending personal time on Facebook, it's put several of these incredible people back into my life to teach me important lessons.

19. Once you go all in, not many people are willing to follow. It can be worth doing it, however, to simply see which hangers on will drop out of the game.

20. Sometimes you just need to accept the ebbs of life because they're there for a reason, even if you don't appreciate the reason.

12 Goals for the New Year - 2012

1. Say "no" to more things, but not the same ones I'd have typically said "no" to in the past.

2. Ask for something fair in return.

3. Be more deliberate about periods of divergent and convergent thinking.

4. Do for ourselves what we suggest others do for themselves.

5. Learn from and hold myself to really changing based on last year's lessons.

6. Provide you more value here, but also be more specific and determined in asking for value in return.

7. Don't just wander into the next stage of life.

8. Care less about things that aren't contributing to moving forward.

9. Don't hang on so tightly.

10. Get better at having short versions of tough conversations.

11. Being deliberate about where "Mike" and "Brainzooming" begin, end, and overlap in the most beneficial ways.

12. Have more fun, do more cool stuff, worry less.

So what was 2011 about for you? I'd love to hear what you're taking away from the past 12 months! Have a great holiday season, and I look forward to meeting back up here with you in a few weeks! Be safe! - Mike Brown


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