2019 has been a busy yet good year and one full of many mini lessons to learn. One of the qualities of those who succeed is a desire to learn and I am always trying to keep myself personally sharp and fruitful.

Here are 12 of my top thoughts and takeaways I picked up this year along the way in life and leadership.

1. Not everyone wants to be a leader

It’s true that not everyone wants to be a leader even if they let you believe that they do. Many have equated profile with a sense of approval and affirmation, particularly in the life of the church. For that reason, some are dishonest (or rather not fully honest) about their willingness to pay the cost that every leader must pay.

By definition, a leader is willing to pay a cost that others are not. It’s not like many set out to be deliberately deceitful but somehow out of a desire to fit in and be loved, it’s very easy to over promise and under deliver. The disconnect between subconscious need and conscious desire undermines the character of a potential leader.

The remedy is about keeping note of when trust has been broken and rebuilt. If trust is always being broken then it’s time to stop giving out so many opportunities. It says nothing about your relationship with that person as a friend or colleague but you cannot keep giving out responsibility to people who don’t steward it properly.

Because of course, you’re responsible for being a steward of your own delegation and empowerment.

2. Your voice is unique

I had the opportunity to travel and speak in Norway this year. It was actually a really defining moment for me because in the context of home and everyday life, the gift of who you are is absolutely familiar.

That’s not a terrible thing in itself but it does mean that we don’t necessarily notice the nuance of our own specific brilliance. And everybody is made to be truly brilliant, reflecting the image of God. Discovering my gift at work in a different context was deeply encouraging and helped me identify some of the parts of me and my voice that I should really lean into and maximise in the coming year.

3. Beg for forgiveness, not permission

This has been something I picked up from Tim Ferriss a few years ago (his first book, The 4 Hour Workweek was a gamechanger for me) but it’s stuck with me this year. Sometimes there are situations that require you to be a little bit cheeky. To get things done and to advance the kingdom and the mission of your life, sometimes you just have to go for it. Stop waiting for others approval and instead throw yourself into living outside of the box in your decision making. But be sure apologise a lot if you get it wrong.

Perfectionism is a trait that runs through many of us but it can be paralysing if it’s not put in its place. Don’t let fear stop you from stepping out. The rewards might just be worth it.

4. Don’t run from difficult conversations

Behind the difficult lies often great treasure worth fighting for. Strengthening of relationships, rebuilding of trust, empowerment, opportunities and real God moments. And yet how much do we run from the conversations that may contain an ounce of conflict.

Very few of us enjoy the potential clash that it brings but that’s why if you decide to be the sort of person who leans into difficult moments then you’ll be operating at a level beyond most. It’s really about fear of people and fear of taking responsibility. Just make a decision already and pick up the phone, schedule the meeting or send that email.

5. Everything comes in seasons

This year we had our third child, a truly wondrous occasion. However it was a clear reminder that life is all about seasons. There are just certain things you can’t do with a newborn baby; certain limits to your freedom, movement and opportunity.
And that’s ok. Sometimes we feel frustrated in comparison to others but we are looking at different seasons. Embrace the season you’re in. Own the life you have to live and you’ll find yourself full of much more peace and joy.

6. Just because things look the same doesn’t mean they’re not growing

Growth always starts inside rather than outside. When a seed is planted in the ground, it does all sorts of development under the surface in the root system before it’s ever obvious to the outside of the world.

There are areas of my life that have looked to be unchanging and without breakthrough and yet I’ve been learning more and more that they are actually growing.

Leadership brews inside a person before it’s revealed in a moment of brilliance in up front communication or obvious success from a decision and so on. Brilliance is about moments but growth is about the long term grind. And sometimes it doesn’t look like anything is happening. But don’t give up because everything starts under the surface.

7. There’s wonder in anonymity

I’ve been enjoying more and more the sense of significance you can have without anyone knowing about it. Prayer is a wonderful example of how we can affect people and yet they may never know. In a world where celebrity is sought after, we would do well to remember that there are many wealthy and successful people whose names we do not know. And there are many celebrities who are household names and yet are bankrupt.

To do something just for God and for no one to find out is the ultimate privilege. To not shout about your accomplishments or development but instead to allow them to be naturally brought to the surface in the right time. This is proof itself that it is God that is exalting you.

8. Most people don’t think for themselves

They say that most people think they’re above average intelligence and yet by definition that can never be true. Similarly, I’ve noticed that there is a worrying lack of rational and logical thinking at work in people’s minds.

Many of us (and I myself will not be entirely immune) are living in an echo chamber of popular thought and indoctrination. So much of what we think is picked up by peers and influencers. That’s why it’s so important for us to get to the root of our ideas and reflect on why we believe what we believe.

Ideas and criticism of said ideas is so important. This applies to religion, ideology and popular thought and yet unfortunately much of rational thinking is being attacked under the guise of hate speech. Just because something doesn’t fit your world view, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be said. When someone says something that you don’t agree with, it’s an opportunity to examine why you believe what you believe and to either tweak your way of life or strengthen your conviction.

9. Daily rhythms are important

This year I had a season in the summer where I ran every day first thing in the morning. I kept this up as a daily habit for a couple of months. However towards the end I decided to mix up the exercise routine by adding in some strength training.

Within days everything came tumbling down as I broke the daily routine of doing the same thing every day. There is something about us as human beings that is tied to the patterns of the solar system and it seems easier to hang habits upon it.

If you’re struggling to create a habit then try initiating it on a daily basis. There will be moments were routine is thrown out as life is rarely symmetrical and without inconvenience but work hard to get back into the rhythm as soon as you can.

10. Don’t apologise for what you’re building

Not everyone understands what you’re trying to do and that’s ok. In fact, there’s a strong chance that if everyone is behind you then something might be wrong. Along this journey called life, we’re called to impact specific people. And that means other people just aren’t going to get it or get you.

To try and please everyone is a recipe for helping no one. And if you withhold your gift from others out of a need for approval from others still then the world will miss the wonder of what you have to offer.

It’s great when people want to partner with us but in every season we must acknowledge that anyone accomplishing anything significant will always leave somebody behind.

11. Everyone’s fighting something

When you think of the hidden battles you are carrying that most don’t know about, it makes you realise that every person is dealing with something personal. Sometimes people are just having a tough day and it pays to be gracious.

Sowing kindness will reap kindness. We want others to treat us in consideration of what’s kicking off internally but we often expect others to operate at full capacity without any knowledge of what’s going on behind the scenes. Remembering this will temper your frustration with those moving slower than you had hoped and create a reciprocal and healthy atmosphere of grace.

12. Go with your gut

There are some decisions and directions to take that supersede rational and logic. Sometimes you just get a feeling or a vibe and I’m learning more and more to pay attention to it. It’s more often than not the Holy Spirit on the inside of you, leading you in a certain direction and with a fair degree of regularity, I’ve noticed that it will open up something significant.

Lean into those little thoughts that are slightly ridiculous. Don’t say no on behalf of others but lean into the possibilities of your imagination

What did you learn this year?

What did you take away from this year? And what would you have done differently about this year? I’d love to hear in the comments below

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