2017 in Review: Ifs, Buts and Maybes

This past year has gone remarkably quickly. As I reflect on what it’s meant for me, I recall several standout moments of learning in what has otherwise been a contemplative year of tweaking, refinement and silent discovery. It’s been a year of IBM (Ifs, Buts and Maybes) which have yielded learning things about myself I didn’t previously know, alongside a graphene-esque resolve to deal with uncertainty, challenge. As a consequence, I feel an increasing clarity of thought about what I’d like to continue to learn and achieve in 2018.

Here’s what I learnt in 2017, around the themes of Consuming, Acting and Rebooting, outlined in one of my previous posts: How I now know

  1. Relationships are the most valuable currency: More than any other year, relationships on all levels have meant the most to me this year. For most of 2017, I have been working independently, and thus have found the day-to-day experience of work very different to previous roles. I am thankful that I still retain colleagues and friends at my place of work that I can bounce ideas off and interact with regularly. Furthermore, being able to call on my extended network to provide their thoughts has proven to be invaluable, as often their perspectives make me reconsider some of the fundamental properties of what I am trying to achieve. Often, these conversations have provided me with a second wind to tackle some of what I had previously considered to be almost insurmountable challenges.

  2. Invest your energy in people that really “get” you: I am someone that seeks energy from other people in order to be at my best. Over time, I have developed a ruthless attitude which exalts those that are open-minded, collaborative and authentic and relegates those that pry and are political and transactional. This won’t work for everyone, but I have found that by doing so, I am able to be more generous with my time and energy with people who operate on a peer-to-peer basis when interacting with me, rather than any modicum of a superiority complex. One example of this is having had the opportunity to visit many schools and universities across the country, where speaking to students about their real-time views on education has given me a clarity of thought about why I work in education. This extends to business leaders I have had the fortune of meeting, including one figure that despite being well-known all over the world, greeted me like a peer. He is an example of a leader I’d like to model the behaviour in my own leadership style. We are all complex people, but when you feel like someone really “gets” what your modus operandi is, there are few truer feelings felt.

  3. Diversifying your consumption matters: This year, more than any previous, I have deliberately looked to broaden the type of consumption patterns I have into alternative media sources (Telegram Messenger and WhatsApp newsletters), but more importantly encompassing a wider variety of opinions than those fed to me by my own selection of preferences. For every Keynesian argument, I like to read a Friedman view on the same topic. For every educational debate about raising the floor, I like to read one about raising the ceiling. For every Crypto-basher, one Erik Finman. This stems from my own belief that we can overplay the use of data to inform human decisions. Humans are irrational by default, and an over-reliant expectation on data to drive every microscopic detail of how life should be lived is patronising. It’s why I believe that the challenges we have in the world will only be solved if we can each understand and contextualise a wide variety of viewpoints, going many levels deeper on complex topics than many headlines would make you believe. For example, Brexiteers in the UK should put forward a stronger vision for life outside the EU; but equally, Remainers should refrain from calling for a Second Referendum, just because the result did not go their way. We need to get outside our bubbles.

  4. Become fluent in acting: 2017 has been a year of cautious toe-dipping for me, due to my natural risk aversion. Acting on ideas, opportunities and collaborations has not been as fluent as I would have liked this year to have turned out. To carry over the metaphor; I have much of the vocabulary, I have been well-trained, but have only been over to the country once or twice to practice. I have started two sideprojects: Icebreakery(ProductHunt for Icebreakers) and FootProQuo (In Development — Gig Economy for Football Clubs) and launched my own personal website — all have given me a large amount of joy, but I haven’t sustained the initial engagement I had in either as yet. I remain part of the Circle of Young Intrapreneurs and an Advisory Council Member of (now) one Primary School. I’d like to level-up in the next year in each of these existing projects, but also with some new ones, particularly in tailwind industries. More to come in 2018…

  5. Rebooting needs Gears 4 & 5: Prior to 2017, I have needed to reboot in short, intensive bursts due to long working hours and limited opportunities to take extended breaks. With a more discrete mandate professionally, I have able to more meticulously plan how, when and to what extent I have needed to reboot. This year, I have found that the grey area between completely offline holidays and work have yielded a lot of benefit for me. I’ve needed at times to shift gears to reboot, from low-intensity European trips to see friends, to vigorously proactively seeking opportunities to be recognised and rewarded in the coming years as part of my career-planning. The higher gears have generally encompassed thoughts of a mental barrier I find tough to overcome: having invested so much of myself into my formal, traditional education with significant success — what does that justifiable, commensurate level of success look like in a career?

To end, I’ll share a few of my personal favourites of 2017.

To anyone who has read this, I hope you had a great 2017, and I’m sure you will thrive even more in 2018!