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  • Keenan Harrell

2019 Taught Me...

2019 was a unique year for me. At times I experienced disappointment, frustration, discontent, impatience and exhaustion…and at other times, I experienced moments of immense resolve, fulfillment, happiness and calm that I was making progress towards the life that I am striving to create for myself. Despite these inevitable ups and downs, I can honestly say that 2019 helped me to become a better version of myself…and for that, I am thankful.


At the end of every year, I like to reflect on the meaningful experiences and lessons that I learned throughout the past twelve months. I do this to hold myself accountable and to proactively prepare myself to tackle the new goals and challenges that lie ahead of me in the new year. I hope that in sharing my lessons learned from 2019, that I can inspire and encourage you to think critically about how 2019 shaped you and how you can make 2020 your best year yet.


Here’s what 2019 taught me:


There’s a time and place for everything…

2019 taught me that the past cannot be changed, the present is one of the most precious gifts that life will ever give to you and that worrying about the future is one of the most wasteful ways to use your time and energy.


“Thinking ahead” (i.e. planning for the future, contemplating various scenarios and outcomes, strategizing my next move, daydreaming about my goals, etc.) has always been a strength of mine. Honestly, I attribute this trait to many of my triumphs in life so far, but this habit inadvertently began to work against me this year. I have some very precise goals that I’m aiming to accomplish over the next few years (as we all should) and because of this, I am very intentional with many of my decisions and actions…constantly focusing on doing things that my “future self” will thank me for.


Unfortunately, there were times this year that I let over-planning and overthinking get the best of me. For instance, there were occasions when I may have planned an evening to relax and enjoy social time with friends, yet I found myself mentally consumed with upcoming tasks, work-related projects and planning for the future. I even felt guilty at times for not filling up every minute of my free time with a productive activity or task that I thought might help me “get ahead” or closer to one of my goals.


I grew to realize that this was not a healthy, nor a sustainable way to think or spend my mental energy, so I took the initiative to educate myself about the practice of mindfulness. Practicing meditation and breathing techniques, focusing on “being” in the moment and working on my inner calmness helped me to realize that dwelling on the future was literally taking me away from being present and enjoying what was right in front of me.


Life is short, so every moment must be savored. You cannot enjoy life to its fullest unless you are present physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally in every moment. So, focus on being in one place, one instance at a time. Don’t dwell negatively on the future. Don’t harp on things from the past. Don’t stress yourself out worrying about an outcome or a reality that simply doesn’t exist (yet). Yes, it is good to plan ahead and to embrace thoughts that will empower you to create the future that you envision for yourself. But remember, if you focus TOO much on the future, it can literally take you away from the beauty that exists in present moment. There is a time to rest. There is a time to work. There is a time to celebrate. There is even a time to plan…but most importantly, there is a time to be present.


Sometimes you must lose in order to win…

Nearly 2 years ago, I made the decision to go “all in” on my endeavor to become a successful public speaker. This entrepreneurial journey has been simultaneously rewarding and humbling. I’m fortunate to say that I’ve had some successes in my speaking career this year…but I’ve also had my fair share of disappointments.


Despite consistently getting up early before work to write speech proposals, rehearsing, recording and editing video submissions in the wee hours of the night and spending my weekends researching prospective organizations/people that I could offer a positive and impactful message to, I received a ton of speaker rejections in 2019. In receiving so many denials, I realized that I had a choice… I could give up, be angry and come up with excuses why things weren’t going in my favor or I could embrace it, learn and improve upon my craft to minimize the chances of me being rejected in the future. In all honesty, every single rejection I’ve received in my short career has made me more fearless in my entrepreneurial pursuit. I’ll admit, I’m still learning as a I go…and there’s a lot more for me to learn, but I’m a better speaker and a more confident person because of those rejections.


In my opinion, “losses” (aka rejections) are merely lessons learned. They make you better and teach you how to improve…but only if you’re willing to let them. Throughout the year, I adopted and embraced what I called the “slingshot mentality” whenever I took a loss or something didn’t go my way. When using a sling shot, an object must initially be pulled back in order to create the energy/momentum needed to eventually propel it forward. The further back it’s pulled, the farther it eventually will be propelled forward. From my perspective, every loss is like being pulled back a little bit further…when you’re pulled back, you learn, you grow, and you improve…then you’re eventually shot forward towards something great – in the same direction of the thing you’ve been working so hard for and are now truly ready for. When you take this approach in life, your “wins” will become more substantial and meaningful because you’ll be prepared and deserving of them.


So, don’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t go your way. Remember that life is a marathon, not sprint. If you can positively embrace your setbacks, commit to constant improvement and promise yourself to never give up, then your victory is inevitable.


Believe it.


Invest in yourself, heavily…

When we think of investing, we often think about investing in businesses, the stock market, real estate, etc. and too often, we make the mistake of overlooking ourselves as the asset. We don’t give enough attention to ourselves, nor do we prioritize the things that we need in order to flourish in our own lives. Every single one of us should expect great things from ourselves. But, for those great things to manifest, it’s imperative that you devote the proper amount of time, energy and other resources into YOURSELF.


Understand that you are the jewel. You are the prized position. You are special and you are unique. It’s essential that you invest your time, money, energy and other resources into the activities, items and opportunities that will help you to develop and encourage you to live your life to its absolute fullest. This year, I made the decision to invest in myself, heavily. From spending financial resources to further my education, build my brand and network as a speaker, and improve my physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, to investing time in improving my professional skillset within my industry, I was able to make investments that added immediate and long-term value to my life.


Like a flower, we all require a special combination of ingredients to support our growth. A flower cannot bloom unless the right resources are invested into it…water, sunlight, oxygen; without those things, a flower dies. These natural laws apply to us too. If we don’t get enough of what we need, we cannot develop into the best versions of ourselves. For example, if you’re an athlete, you must invest time into your craft (i.e. watching film, studying the playbook, practicing technique, etc.) in order to be successful. If you’re a young professional or aspiring entrepreneur, you must invest in developing your professional skillet, building your personal brand, increasing your industry knowledge and building a strong network. If you simply a have goal of losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle, you have to invest in your physical well-being by working out consistently, getting proper rest and practicing good nutritional habits.


It’s important to also understand that not all investments pay off immediately. Whether it’s spending 30 minutes a day reading personal development books or paying $10 a month for a meditation app on your phone that will help improve your mental wellness, it’s important that you make a consistent habit of investing. Be patient with your investments; protect and grow them. Do whatever you have to do to keep feeding your glow and improving the quality of your life. Don’t overlook the importance of investing in yourself and remember that it’s okay spend time, money and energy on things that make you feel better, perform better and be better…you deserve it.


For those of you reading this, I encourage you to personally reflect on your 2019 for continued growth and to develop a deeper sense of clarity. The new year can represent a blank slate and a fresh start for many of us, but remember, you do not have to wait until 2020 to make a change for better – you can start right now.


Happy New Year and may 2020 be your best year yet!

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