2019 was a much different year than 2018 for me. Overall, it was better.
As always there were highs and lows, but the positives outweighed the negatives. Unlike 2018, which was a tough year.
At the end of every year, I spend some time reflecting. It is important that I identify lessons I learned, and also best practices.
First, I will share the three largest lessons I learned in 2019.
Lesson #1 for 2019 — Life is never perfect
I know this lesson. You know it. We all know it. Life is never perfect. In general, I categorize my life into two parts — professional and personal.
The professional piece is what happens at work. The personal component is the rest of my life.
In 2018 — my professional life was excellent. Lots of success. While my personal life was challenging.
For 2019 — the opposite was true. I struggled at work but enjoyed my life outside the office.
This lesson is a reminder that it is rare both pieces are perfect, and that is okay.
Instead of pushing yourself to an impossible ‘perfect,’ and therefore getting nowhere, accept ‘good.’ Many things worth doing are worth doing badly.
Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project
How I am improving my professional life in 2020
In the second half of 2019, I spent time thinking about my career. It was not going well. I decided it was prudent to be open to a change.
The job market in the DC area is hot these days. I receive a fair number of inquiries from companies that are interested in my experience and expertise.
In the fall I started paying more attention to these offers. All of them were interesting. Each one was different.
Microsoft contacted me about an awesome opportunity. I decided to accept the offer and start a new job there soon.
I am hopeful that 2020 will be much better from a professional perspective.
The new decade will begin with a new adventure.
Lesson #2 for 2019 — Be patient and hold my tongue
I am not a patient man. On top of that, I tend to be stubborn. Two traits that I am not proud of and hope to improve.
I was reminded again in 2019 to be patient and take my time. On more than one occasion I was not patient and paid the price.
In particular, I speak my mind at work at times when I should hold my tongue. It was a stupid mistake I made more than once the past year.
I forgot the words of wisdom that Andy Stanley talks about in this excellent sermon series.
What does a patient man look like?
The Washington Nationals won the world series in 2019. No one contributed more to their championship than Anthony Rendon. He is a patient man.
A perfect example was in game 6 of the world series. The Nationals were behind in the seventh inning. If they lost that game it was over.
The umpires made a questionable call that made the Nationals furious. Everyone in the dugout was pissed off, except Rendon.
He steps in the batter box the next inning and smacks a home run into the stands. Next, he rounds the bases — no smile, no words, no emotion.
Essentially Rendon won the game with that swing. It was awesome. A patient man achieves great things.
I hope to be like Anthony one day.
Lesson #3 for 2019 — Take better care of my body
2019 was a rough year for my body. I feel pretty good for my age, but should definitely be healthier than I am right now.
First, I put on an extra ten pounds — not good.
Second, I did not run as much in 2019 as I did in 2018. In fact, I ran 100 miles less. This significant dip explains the weight gain.
Third, my annual physical revealed that my cholesterol is high.
Both of my doctors read me the riot act about losing weight, drinking less, and eating better. I completely agree with them and can feel the negative impacts of not taking proper care of my body in the last year.
My simple plan for better health in 2020
Both of my doctors emphasized that losing weight is the top priority. Everything else will improve if I do that alone.
This is true based on the fact I always feel better when I am lighter. I plan on simplifying my diet so that I can both lose weight and lower my cholesterol.
One of my doctors recommended eating similar to the Mediterranean diet, so I am researching how to implement that change.
I will also adjust my training plan for running. Distance will be more important than speed in 2020. Getting those extra miles in will help.
I will also give cross-training a shot this year by swimming.
Two things I will continue this year include intermittent fasting and the run forever training model. Both work well for me.
Top Three best practices from 2019
In addition to the hard lessons learned, I experienced a fair amount of success in 2019. Each year I conduct a few experiments to test the waters.
Some are failures that I learn from and move on. Others go well and turn into best practices, things that I will continue in the future.
For this section, I identified my top three best practices from 2019.
There are many more. These are the ones worth sharing.
Best Practice #1 from 2019- Spending Christmas holiday in the Caribbean
Kim and I spent time in the Caribbean in 2018 and 2019 during the Christmas holiday break. Both vacations were memorable.
At first, I was hesitant to head South during the winter. After all, neither one of us is that old, way too young to become snowbirds.
We gave it a shot in 2018 by visiting Jamaica at one of their all-inclusive resorts. It was fantastic.
Last year we went to Antigua which was even better. Neither trip was cheap, but both were a worthwhile investment.
An excellent chance to take a break, enjoy warm weather in December, and truly relax.
We are already planning our 2020 trip to the Caribbean. It is going to be another awesome vacation.
Best Practice #2 from 2019- Exploring new regions of Europe
I enjoy visiting Europe every summer. It is my favorite place to vacation with family. I developed this habit back in 2015 when I took both of you on a trip to Germany.
In 2019 I did something different. Two trips to Europe. One with Kim and her kids to see London, Brussels, and Paris. Three cities I know well.
For the second trip, I went on a solo journey in the fall to Barcelona and the Catalonia region. It was great — even better than I imagined.
Traveling solo presents several challenges. The biggest one is being completely alone in a foreign country. It can be a little daunting, but I found the experience to be well worth the discomfort.
Three big advantages to traveling solo — it is easy to make decisions, you move at your own pace, and you experience more of the local culture.
I truly enjoyed seeing an area of Europe that was completely new to me.
How I plan to implement this best practice in 2020
I am planning to return to Europe in the fall for another adventure.
Am I going solo in 2020? The simple answer is no. I missed Kim and talked with her every day I was in Catalonia. I hope that she can make my next fall trip.
If not, I will likely invite some friends to tag along. I don’t know exactly where my fun fall adventure will take me, but I do have several places in mind.
Currently, the list of options includes the Piedmont area of North Italy, Istrian Pennisula in Croatia, Languedoc region in Southern France, Slovenia, or Basque country in Northern Spain.
All of them look amazing based on my initial research.
Best Practice #3 from 2019 — Keep learning and growing
I am over 50 years old and possess almost three decades of leadership experience. It is not often that I am afforded the opportunity to spend significant time in corporate training.
This past year I was able to attend a leadership course that included a class at the Kellogg Business School through my current employer.
It was an excellent program. I learned a lot and added several tools to my leadership arsenal.
I plan to complete another course at Kellogg this year in order to keep learning and growing. It is hard for an old dog like me to learn new tricks every year, but I am hoping to do so in 2020.
What about you?
What lessons did you learn in 2019?
Did you identify any best practices from the past year that you can implement fully in 2020?
The next decade is going to be an awesome one. I am excited for both of you and will do what I can to help you achieve your dreams.
I write a blog for my sons called Doug Keating Letter to Sons. I am sharing content from my blog here. I hope you enjoyed it. All feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading it.